BOOK III _
TO STUDY GOVERNMENTAL OPERATIONS
WITH RESPECT TO
UNITED STATES SENATE
APRIL 23 (under authority of the order of April 14), 1976
COINTELPRO: THE FBI'S COVERT ACTION PROGRAMS AGAINST
I. INTRODUCTION AND SUMMARY
COINTELPRO is the FBI acronym for a series of covert action programs
directed against domestic groups. In these programs, the Bureau went beyond
the collection of intelligence to secret action defined to "disrupt" and
"neutralize" target groups and individuals. The techniques were adopted
wholesale from wartime counterintelligence, and ranged from the trivial
(mailing reprints of Reader's Digest articles to college administrators) to the
degrading (sending anonymous poison-pen letters intended to break up
marriages) and the dangerous (encouraging gang warfare and falsely labeling
members of a violent group as police informers).
This report is based on a staff study of more than 20,000 pages of Bureau
documents, depositions of many of the Bureau agents involved in the
programs, and interviews of several COINTELPRO targets. The examples
selected for discussion necessarily represent a small percentage of the more
than 2,000 approved COINTELPRO actions. Nevertheless, the cases
demonstrate the consequences of a Government agency's decision to take the
law into its own hands for the "greater good" of the country.
COINTELPRO began in 1956, in part because of frustration with Supreme
Court rulings limiting the Government's power to proceed overtly against
dissident groups; it ended in 1971 with the threat of public exposure. 1 In
the intervening 15 years, the Bureau conducted a sophisticated vigilante
operation aimed squarely at preventing the exercise of First Amendment rights
of speech and association, on the theory that preventing the growth of
dangerous groups and the propagation of dangerous ideas would protect the
national security and deter violence. 2
Many of the techniques used would be intolerable in a democratic society
even if all of the targets had been involved in violent activity, but COINTELPRO
went far beyond that. The unexpressed major premise of the programs was that
a law enforcement agency has the duty to do whatever is necessary to combat
perceived threats to the existing social and political order.
A. "Counterintelligence Program": A Misnomer for Domestic Covert Action
COINTELPRO is an acronym for "counterintelligence program."
Counterintelligence is defined as those actions by an intelligence agency
intended to protect its own security and to undermine hostile intelligence
operations. Under COINTELPRO certain techniques the Bureau had used against
hostile foreign agents were adopted for use against perceived domestic threats
to the established political and social order. The formal programs which
incorporated these techniques were, therefore, also called "counterintelligence." 2a
"Covert action" is, however, a more accurate term for the Bureau's programs
directed against American citizens. "Covert action" is the label applied to
clandestine activities intended to influence political choices and social values. 3
B. Who Were the Targets?
1. The Five Targeted Groups
The Bureau's covert action programs were aimed at five perceived threats to
domestic tranquility: the "Communist Party, USA" program (1956-71) ; the
"Socialist Workers Party" program (1961-69) ; the "White Hate Group"
program (1964-71) ; the "Black Nationalist-Hate Group" program (1967-71) ;
and the "New Left" program (1968-71).
2. Labels Without Meaning
The Bureau's titles for its programs should not be accepted uncritically.
They imply a precision of definition and of targeting which did not exist.
Even the names of the later programs had no clear definition. The Black
Nationalist program, according to its supervisor, included "a great number of
organizations that you might not today characterize as black nationalist but
which were in fact primarily black." 3a Indeed, the nonviolent Southern
Christian Leadership Conference was labeled as a Black Nationalist "Hate Group.''
4 Nor could anyone at the Bureau even define "New Left," except as "more or
less an attitude." 5
Furthermore, the actual targets were chosen from a far broader group than the
names of the programs would imply. The CPUSA program targeted not only
Party members but also sponsors of the National Committee to Abolish
the House Un-American Activities Committee 6 and civil rights leaders
allegedly under Communist influence or simply not "anti-Communist." 7 The
Socialist Workers Party program included non-SWP sponsors of antiwar
demonstrations which were cosponsored by the SWP or the Young Socialist
Alliance, its youth group. 8 The Black Nationalist program targeted a range of
organizations from the Panthers to SNCC to the peaceful Southern Christian
Leadership Conference, 9 and included most black student groups. 10 New
Left targets ranged from the SDS 11 to the Interuniversity Committee for
Debate on Foreign Policy, 12 from all of Antioch College ("vanguard of the
New Left") 13 to the New Mexico Free University 14 and other "alternate"
schools, 15 and from underground newspapers 16 to students protesting
university censorship of a student publication by carrying signs with four
-letter words on them. 17
C. What Were the Purposes of COINTELPRO?
The breadth of targeting and lack of substantive content in the descriptive
titles of the programs reflect the range of motivations for COINTELPRO activity:
protecting national security, preventing violence, and maintaining the existing
social and political order by "disrupting" and "neutralizing" groups and
individuals perceived as threats.
1. Protecting National Security
The first COINTELPRO, against the CPUSA, was instituted to counter what the
Bureau believed to be a threat to the national security. As the chief of the
COINTELPRO unit explained it:
We were trying first to develop intelligence so we would know what they were
doing [and] second, to contain the threat.... To stop the spread of communism,
to stop the effectiveness of the Communist Party as a vehicle of Soviet
intelligence, propaganda and agitation. 17a
Had the Bureau stopped there, perhaps the term "counterintelligence" would
have been an accurate label for the program. The expansion of the CPUSA
program to non-Communists, however, and the addition of subsequent programs,
make it clear that other purposes were also at work.
2. Preventing Violence
One of these purposes was the prevention of violence. Every Bureau witness
deposed stated that the purpose of the particular program or programs with
which he was associated was to deter violent acts by the target groups, although
the witnesses differed in their assessment of how successful the programs
were in achieving that goal. The preventive function was not, however, intended
to be a product of specific proposals directed at specific criminal acts. Rather,
the programs were aimed at groups which the Bureau believed to be violent or to
have the potential for violence.
The programs were to prevent violence by deterring membership in the target
groups, even if neither the particular member nor the group was violent at the
time. As the supervisor of the Black Nationalist COINTELPRO put it, "Obviously
you are going to prevent violence or a greater amount of violence if you have
smaller groups." (Black Nationalist supervisor deposition, 10/17/75, p. 24.)
The COINTELPRO unit chief agreed: "We also made an effort to deter or counteract
the propaganda ... and to deter recruitment where we could. This was done
with the view that if we could curb the organization, we could curb the action
or the violence within the organization." 17b In short, the programs were to
prevent violence indirectly, rather than directly, by preventing possibly violent
citizens from joining or continuing to associate with possibly violent groups.18
The prevention of violence, is clearly not, in itself, an improper purpose;
preventing violence is the ultimate goal of most law enforcement. Prosecution
and sentencing are intended to deter future criminal behavior, not only of the
subject but also of others who might break the law. In that sense, law
enforcement legitimately attempts the indirect prevention of possible violence
and, if the methods used are proper, raises no constitutional issues. When the
government goes beyond traditional law enforcement methods, however, and
attacks group membership and advocacy, it treads on ground forbidden to
it by the Constitution. In Brandenberg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444 (1969), the
Supreme Court held that the government is not permitted to "forbid or
proscribe advocacy of the use of force or law violation except where such
advocacy is directed toward inciting or producing imminent lawless action and
is likely to incite or produce such action." In the absence of such clear and
present danger, the government cannot act against speech nor, presumably,
3. Maintaining the Existing Social and Political Order
Protecting national security and preventing violence are the purposes
advanced by the Bureau for COINTELPRO. There is another purpose for
COINTELPRO which is not explicit but which offers the only explanation for
those actions which had no conceivable rational relationship to either national
security or violent activity. The unexpressed major premise of much of
COINTELPRO is that the Bureau has a role in maintaining the existing social
order, and that its efforts should be aimed toward combating those who
threaten that order. 19
The "New Left" COINTELPRO presents the most striking example of this
attitude. As discussed earlier, the Bureau did not define the term "New Left,"
and the range of targets went far beyond alleged "subversives" or "extremists."
Thus, for example, two student participants in a "free speech" demonstration
were targeted because they defended the use of the classic four-letter-word.
Significantly, they were made COINTELPRO subjects even though the demonstration
"does not appear to be inspired by the New Left" because it "shows obvious disregard
for decency and established morality."20 In another case, reprints of a newspaper
article entitled "Rabbi in Vietnam Says Withdrawal Not the Answer" were mailed to
members of the Vietnam Day Committee "to convince [them] of the correctness of
the U.S. foreign policy in Vietnam." 21 Still another document weighs against
the "liberal press and the bleeding hearts and the forces on the left" which were
"taking advantage of the situation in Chicago surrounding the Democratic
National Convention to attack the police and organized law enforcement agencies."22
Upholding decency and established morality, defending the correctness of U.S.
foreign policy, and attacking those who thought the Chicago police used undue
force have no apparent connection with the expressed goals of protecting national
security and preventing violence. These documents, among others examined,
compel the conclusion that Federal law enforcement officers looked upon themselves
as guardians of the status quo. The attitude should not be a surprise; the difficulty
lies in the choice of weapons.
D. What Techniques Were Used?
1. The Techniques of Wartime
Under the COINTELPRO programs, the -arsenal of techniques used against
foreign espionage agents was transferred to domestic enemies. As William C.
Sullivan, former Assistant to the Director, put it,
This is a rough, tough, dirty business, and dangerous. It was dangerous at
times. No holds were barred.... We have used [these techniques] against Soviet
agents. They have used [them] against us. . . . [The same methods were]
brought home against any organization against which we were targeted. We did
not differentiate. This is a rough, tough business. 23
Mr. Sullivan's description -- rough, tough, and dirty -- is accurate. In the
course of COINTELPRO's fifteen-year history, a number of individual actions
may have violated specific criminal statutes; 24 a number of individual actions
involved risk of serious bodily injury or death to the targets (at least four
assaults were reported as "results" ; 25 and a number of actions, while not
illegal or dangerous, can only be described as "abhorrent in a free Society."26
On the other hand, many of the actions were more silly than repellent.
The Bureau approved 2,370 separate counterintelligence actions. 27 Their
techniques ranged from anonymously mailing reprints of newspaper and magazine
articles (sometimes Bureau-authored or planted) to group members or
supporters to convince them of the error of their ways,28 to mailing
anonymous letters to a member's spouse accusing the target of infidelity;29 from
using informants to raise controversial issues at meetings in order to cause
dissent, 30 to the "snitch jacket" (falsely labeling a group member as an informant)31
and encouraging street warfare between violent groups ;32 from contacting
members of a "legitimate group to expose the alleged subversive background
of a fellow member 33 to contacting an employer to get a target fired; 34
from attempting to arrange for reporters to interview targets with planted questions,35
to trying to stop targets from speaking at all;36 from notifying state and local authorities
of a target's criminal law violations,37 to using the IRS to audit a professor, not
just to collect any taxes owing, but to distract him from his political activities. 38
2. Techniques Carrying A Serious Risk of Physical, Emotional, or Economic
The Bureau recognized that some techniques were more likely than others to cause
serious physical, emotional, or economic damage to the targets. Any proposed use
of those techniques was scrutinized carefully by headquarters supervisory personnel,
in an attempt to balance the "greater good" to be achieved by the proposal against
the known or risked harm to the target. If the "good" was sufficient, the proposal was
approved. 39 For instance, in discussing anonymous letters to spouses, the agent
who supervised the New Left COINTELPRO stated:
[Before recommending approval] I would want to know what you want to get
out of this, who are these people. If it's somebody, and say they did split
up, what would accrue from it as far as disrupting the New Left is concerned?
Say they broke up, what then….
[The question would be] is it worth it? 39a
Similarly, with regard to the "snitch jacket" technique -- falsely labeling a group
member as a police informant -- the chief of the Racial Intelligence Section stated:
You have to be able to make decisions and I am sure that labeling somebody as an
informant, that you'd want to make certain that it served a good purpose before you did
it and not do it haphazardly. . . . It is a serious thing. . . . As far as I am aware, in the
black extremist area, by using that technique, no one was killed. I am sure of that. 40
Moore was asked whether the fact that no one was killed was the result of "luck
or planning." He answered:
"Oh, it just happened that way, I am sure." 41
It is thus clear that, as Sullivan said, "No holds were barred, 42 although some
holds were weighed more carefully than others. When the willingness to use
techniques which were concededly dangerous or harmful to the targets is
combined with the range of purposes and criteria by which these targets were
chosen, the result is neither "within bounds" nor "justified" in a free society. 43
E. Legal Restrictions Were Ignored
What happened to turn a law enforcement agency into a law violator? Why do
those involved still believe their actions were not only defensible, but right? 44
The answers to these questions are found in a combination of factors: the
availability of information showing the targets' vulnerability gathered through
the unrestrained collection of domestic intelligence; the belief both within
and without the Bureau that it could handle any problem; and frustration with
the apparent inability of traditional law enforcement methods to solve the
There is no doubt that Congress and the public looked to the Bureau for
protection against domestic and foreign threats. As the COINTELPRO unit
At this time [the mid-1950s] there was a general philosophy too, the
general attitude of the public at this time was you did not have to worry about
Communism because the FBI would take care of it. Leave it to the FBI.
I hardly know an agent who would ever go to a social affair or something, if
he were introduced as FBI, the comment would be, "we feel very good
because we know you are handling the threat." We were handling the threat
with what directives and statutes were available. There did not seem to be any
strong interest of anybody to give us stronger or better defined statutes. 45
Not only was no one interested in giving the Bureau better statutes (nor, for
that matter, did the Bureau request them), but the Supreme Court drastically
narrowed the scope of the statutes available. The Bureau personnel involved
trace the institution of the first formal counterintelligence program to the
Supreme Court reversal of the Smith Act convictions. The unit chief testified:
The Supreme Court rulings had rendered the Smith Act technically
unenforceable.... It made it ineffective to prosecute Communist Party members,
made it impossible to prosecute Communist Party members at the time. 46
This belief in the failure of law enforcement produced the subsequent
COINTELPROs as well. The unit chief continued:
The other COINTELPRO programs were opened as the threat arose in areas
of extremism and subversion and there were not adequate statutes to proceed
against the organization or to prevent their activities. 47
Every Bureau witness deposed agreed that his particular COINTELPRO was the
result of tremendous pressure on the Bureau to do something about a
perceived threat, coupled with the inability of law enforcement techniques to cope
with the situation, either because there were no pertinent federal statutes,48
or because local law enforcement efforts were stymied by indifference or the refusal
of those in charge to call the police.
Outside pressure and law enforcement frustration do not, of course, fully explain
COINTELPRO. Perhaps, after all, the best explanation was proffered by George
C. Moore, the Racial Intelligence Section chief:
The FBI's counterintelligence program came up because there was a point --
if you have anything in the FBI, you have an action-oriented group of people
who see something happening and want to do something to take its place. 49
F. Command and Control
While that "action-oriented group of people" was proceeding with fifteen
years of COINTELPRO activities, where were those responsible for the supervision
and control of the Bureau? Part of the answer lies in the definition of "covert
action"-- clandestine activities. No one outside the Bureau was supposed to know
that COINTELPRO existed. Even within the Bureau, the programs were handled
on a "need-to-know" basis.
Nevertheless, the Bureau has supplied the Committee with documents which
support its contention that various Attorneys General, advisors to Presidents,
members of the House Appropriations Subcommittee, and, in 1958, the
Cabinet were at least put on notice of the existence of the CPUSA and White
Hate COINTELPROs. The Bureau cannot support its claim that anyone
outside the FBI was informed of the existence of the Socialist Workers Party,
Black Nationalist, or New Left COINTELPROs, and even those letters
or briefings which referred (usually indirectly) to the CPUSA and White Hate
COINTELPROs failed to mention the use of techniques which risked physical,
emotional, or economic damage to their targets. In any event, there is no record
that any of these officials asked to know more, and none of them appears to
have expressed disapproval based on the information they were given.
As the history of the Domestic Intelligence Division shows, the absence of
disapproval has been interpreted by the Bureau as sufficient authorization to
continue an activity (and occasionally, even express disapproval has not
sufficed to stop a practice). Perhaps, however, the crux of the "command and
control" problem lies in the testimony by one former Attorney General that he
was too busy to know what the Bureau was doing, 50 and by another that,
as a matter of political reality, he could not have stopped it anyway. 51
Whether the Attorney General can control the Bureau is still an open question.
The Peterson Committee, which was formed within the Justice Department
to investigate COINTELPRO at Attorney General Saxbe's request, worked only
with Bureau-prepared summaries of the COINTELPRO files. 52 Further, the fact
that the Department of Justice must work with the Bureau on a day-to-day
basis may influence the Department's judgment on Bureau activities. 53
If COINTELPRO had been a short-lived aberration, the thorny problems of
motivation, techniques, and control presented might be safely relegated to
history. However, COINTELPRO existed for years on an "ad hoc" basis before
the formal programs were instituted, and more significantly, COINTELPRO-
type activities may continue today under the rubric of "investigation."
1. The Grey Area Between Counterintelligence and Investigation
The word "counterintelligence" had no fixed meaning even before the programs
were terminated. The Bureau witnesses agreed that there is a large grey area
between "counterintelligence" and "aggressive investigation," and that,
headquarters supervisors sometimes had difficulty in deciding which caption
should go on certain proposals. 54
Aggressive investigation continues, and may be even more disruptive than
covert action. An anonymous letter (COINTELPRO) can be ignored as the work
of a crank; an overt approach by the Bureau ("investigation") is not so easily
dismissed. 55 The line between information collection and harassment can be
2. Is COINTELPRO Continuing?
COINTELPRO-type activities which are clearly not within the "grey area"
between COINTELPRO and investigation have continued on at least three
occasions. Although all COINTELPROs were officially terminated "for security
reasons" on April 27, 1971, the documents discontinuing the program provided:
In exceptional circumstances where it is considered counterintelligence action
is warranted, recommendations should be submitted to the Bureau under the
individual case caption to which it pertains. These recommendations will be
considered on an individual basis. 56
The Committee requested that the Bureau provide it with a list of any
"COINTELPRO-type" actions Since April 28,1971. The Bureau first advised
the Committee that a review failed to develop any information
indicating post termination COINTELPRO activity. Subsequently, the Bureau
located and furnished to the Committee two instances of COINTELPRO-type
operations. 57 The Committee has discovered a third instance; four
months after COINTELPRO was terminated, information on an attorney's political
background was furnished to friendly newspaper sources under the so-called
"Mass Media Program," intended to discredit both the attorney and his client. 58
The Committee has not been able to determine with any greater precision the
extent to which COINTELPRO may be continuing. Any proposals to initiate
COINTELPRO-type action would be filed under the individual case caption. The
Bureau has over 500,000 case files, and each one would have to be searched.
In this context, it should be noted that a Bureau search of all field office
COINTELPRO files revealed the existence of five operations in addition to those
known to the Petersen committee. 59 A search of all investigative files
might be similarly productive.
3. The Future of COINTELPRO
Attitudes within and without the Bureau demonstrate a continued belief by some that
covert action against American citizens is permissible if the need for it is strong enough.
When the Petersen Committee report on COINTELPROwas released, Director Kelley responded,
"For the FBI to have done less under the circumstances would have been an abdication
of its responsibilities to the American people." He also restated his "feeling that the FBI's
counterintelligence programs had an impact on the crises of the time and, therefore,
that they helped to bring about a favorable change in this country." 60 In his testimony
before the Select Committee, Director Kelley continued to defend COINTELPRO, albeit
with some reservations:
What I said then, in 1974, and what I believe today, is that the FBI employees involved
in these programs did what they felt was expected of them by the President,
the Attorney General, the Congress, and the people of the United States. . . .
Our concern over whatever abuses occurred in the Counterintelligence
Programs, and there were some substantial ones, should not obscure the underlying
purpose of those programs.
We must recognize that situations have occurred in the past and will arise in the
future where the Government may well be expected to depart from its traditional
role, in the FBI's case, as an investigative and intelligence-gathering agency, and take
affirmative steps which are needed to meet an imminent threat to human life or property. 62
Nor is the Director alone in his belief that faced with sufficient threat, covert
disruption is justified. The Department of Justice promulgated tentative guidelines
for the Bureau which would have permitted the Attorney General to authorize
"preventive action" where there is a substantial possibility that violence will occur and
"prosecution is impracticable." Although those guidelines have now been dropped,
the principle has not been rejected.
II. THE FIVE DOMESTIC PROGRAMS
The origins of COINTELPRO are rooted in the Bureau's jurisdiction to investigate
hostile foreign intelligence activities on American soil. Counterintelligence, of course,
goes beyond investigation; it is affirmative action taken to neutralize hostile agents.
The Bureau believed its wartime counterattacks on foreign agents to be effective -- and
what works against one enemy will work against another. In the atmosphere of the Cold
War, the American Communist Party was viewed as a deadly threat to national security.
In 1956, the Bureau decided that a formal counterintelligence program,
coordinated from headquarters, would be an effective weapon in the fight
against Communism. The first COINTELPRO was therefore initiated. 63
The CPUSA COINTELPRO accounted for more than half of all approved
proposals. 64 The Bureau personnel involved believed that the success of the
program -- one action was described as "the most effective single blow ever
dealt the organized communist movement" -- made counterintelligence
techniques the weapons of choice whenever the Bureau assessed a new and, in
its view, equally serious threat to the country.
As noted earlier, law enforcement frustration also played a part in the origins
of each COINTELPRO. In each case, Bureau witnesses testified that the lack
of adequate statutes, uncooperative or ineffective local police, or restrictive
court rulings had made it impossible to use traditional law enforcement
methods against the targeted groups.
Additionally, a certain amount of empire building may have been at work.
Under William C. Sullivan, the Domestic Intelligence Division greatly expanded its
jurisdiction. Klan matters were transferred in 1964 to the Intelligence Division
from the General Investigative Division; black nationalist groups were added
in 1967; and, just as the Old Left appeared to be dying out,66 the New Left
was gradually added to the work of the Division's Internal Security Section
in the late 1960s.
Finally, it is significant that the five domestic COINTELPROs were started against
the five groups which were the subject of intensified investigative programs. Of course,
the fact that such intensive investigative programs were started at all reflects the
Bureau's process of threat assessment:
[T]he greater the threat, the more need to know about it (intelligence) and the more
impetus to counter it (covert action). More important, however, the mere existence of
the additional information gained through the investigative programs inevitably
demonstrated those particular organizational or personal weaknesses which were
vulnerable to disruption. COINTELPRO demonstrates the dangers inherent in the
overbroad collection of domestic intelligence; when information is available, it can be
-- and was -- improperly used.
B. The Programs
Before examining each program in detail, some general observations may be
useful. Each of the five domestic COINTELPROs had certain traits in common.
As noted above, each program used techniques learned from the Bureau's wartime
efforts against hostile foreign agents. Each sprang from frustration with the
perceived inability of law enforcement to deal with what the Bureau believed to be a
serious threat to the country. Each program depended on an intensive intelligence
effort to provide the information used to disrupt the target groups.
The programs also differ to some extent. The White Hate program, for example,
was very precisely targeted; each of the other programs spread to a
number of groups which do not appear to fall within any clear parameters. 67
In fact, with each subsequent COINTELPRO, the targeting became more diffuse.
The White Hate COINTELPRO also used comparatively few techniques which
carried a risk of serious physical, emotional, or economic damage to the
targets, while the Black Nationalist COINTELPRO used such techniques
extensively. The New Left COINTELPRO, on the other hand, had the highest
proportion of proposals aimed at preventing the exercise of free speech. Like
the progression in targeting, the use of dangerous, degrading, or blatantly
unconstitutional techniques also appears to have become less restrained
with each subsequent program.
1. CPUSA. -- The first official COINTELPRO program, against the Communist
Party, USA, was started in August 1956 with Director Hoover's approval.
Although the formal program was instituted in 1956, COINTELPRO-type activities
had gone on for years. The memorandum recommending the program refers to
prior actions, constituting "harassment," which were generated by the field
during the course of the Bureau's investigation of the Communist Party." These
prior actions were instituted on all ad hoc basis as the opportunity arose. As
Sullivan testified, "[Before 1956] we were engaged in COINTELPRO tactics,
divide, confuse, weaken in diverse ways, all organization. . . . [Before 1956] it,
was more sporadic. It depended on a given office. . . ." 69
In 1956, a series of field conferences was held to discuss the development
of new security informants. The Smith Act trials and related proceedings had
exposed over 100 informants, leaving the Bureau's intelligence apparatus in
some disarray. During the field conferences, a formal counterintelligence
program was recommended, partly because of the gaps in the informant ranks. 70
Since the Bureau had evidence that until the late 1940s the CPUSA had been
"blatantly" involved in Soviet espionage, and believed that the Soviets were
continuing to use the Party for "political and intelligence purposes," 71
there was no clear line of demarcation in the Bureau's switch from foreign to
domestic counterintelligence. The initial areas of concentration were the use of
informants to capitalize on the conflicts within the Party over Nikita Khrushchev's
denunciation of Stalin; to prevent the CP's efforts to take over (via a merger) a
broad-based socialist group; to encourage the Socialist Workers Party in
its attacks on the CP; and to use the IRS to investigate underground CP members
who either failed to file, or filed under false names.
As the program proceeded, other targets and techniques were developed, but
until 1960 the CPUSA targets were Party members, and the techniques were aimed
at the Party organization (factionalism, public exposure, etc.)
2. The 1960 Expansion. -- In March 1960, CPUSA COINTELPRO field offices
received a directive to intensify counterintelligence efforts to prevent Communist
infiltration ("COMINFIL") of mass organizations, ranging from the NAACP 72 to a
local scout troop. 73 The usual technique would be to tell a leader of the organization
about the alleged Communist in its midst, the target, of course, being the alleged
Communist rather than the organization. In an increasing number of cases, however,
both the alleged Communist and the organization were targeted, usually by planting a
news article about Communists active in the organization. For example, a newsman was
given information about Communist participation in a SANE march, with the express
purpose being to discredit SANE as well as the participants, and another newspaper was
alerted to plans of Bettina Aptheker to join a United Farm Workers picket line. 74
The 1960 "COMINFIL" memorandum marks the beginning of the slide from targeting CP
members to those allegedly under CP "influence" (such civil right's leaders as Martin Luther
King, Jr.) to "fellow travelers" (those, taking positions supported by the Communists,
such as school integration, increased minority hiring, and opposition to HUAC.) 75
3. Socialist Workers Party. -- The Socialist Workers Party ("SWP") COINTELPRO
program was initiated on October 12, 1961, by the headquarters supervisor
handling the SWP desk (but with Hoover's concurrence) apparently on a theory
of even-handed treatment: if the Bureau has a program against the CP, it was only fair
to have one against the Trotskyites. (The COINTELPRO unit chief, in response
to a question about why the Bureau targeted the SWP in view of the fact that the SWP's
hostility to the Communist Party had been useful in disrupting the CPUSA, answered,
"I do not think that the Bureau discriminates against
subversive organizations.") 76
The program was not given high priority -- only 45 actions were approved
-- and was discontinued in 1969, two years before the other four programs ended.
(The SWP program was then subsumed in the New Left COINTELPRO.) Nevertheless, it
marks an important departure from the CPUSA COINTELPRO: although the-SWP
had contacts with foreign Trotskyite groups, there was no evidence that the SWP was
involved in espionage. These were, in C. D. Brennans phrase, "home grown tomatoes." 77
The Bureau has conceded that the SWP has never been engaged in organizational
violence, nor has it taken any criminal steps toward overthrowing the country. 78
Nor does the Bureau claim the SWP was engaged in revolutionary acts. The Party
was targeted for its rhetoric; significantly, the originating letter points to the SWPs "open"
espousal of its line, "through running candidates for public office" and its direction and/or
support of "such causes as Castro's Cuba and integration problems arising in the South."
Further, the American people had to be alerted to the fact that "the SWP is not just another
socialist group but follows the revolutionary principles of Marx, Lenin, and Engles as
interpreted by Leon Trotsky." 79
Like the CPUSA COINTELPRO, non-Party members were also targeted, particularly
when the SWP and the Young Socialist Alliance (the SWP's youth group) started to
co-sponsor antiwar marches. 80
4. White Hate. -- The Klan COINTELPRO began on July 30, 1964, with the
transfer of the "responsibility for development of informants and gathering
of intelligence on the KKK and other hate groups" from the General Investigative
Division to the Domestic Intelligence Division. The memorandum recommending
the reorganization also suggested that, "counterintelligence and disruption tactics
be given further study by DID and appropriate recommendations made." 81
Accordingly, on September 2, 1964, a directive was sent to seventeen field
offices instituting a COINTELPRO against Klan-type and hate organizations
"to expose, disrupt, and otherwise neutralize the activities of the various Klans
and hate organizations, their leadership, and adherents." 82 Seventeen Klan
organizations and nine "hate" organizations (e.g., American Nazi Party,
National States Rights Party, etc.) were listed as targets. The field offices were
also instructed specifically to consider "Action Groups" -- "the relatively few
individuals in each organization who use strong arm tactics and violent actions
to achieve their ends." 83 However, counterintelligence proposals were not to
be limited to these few, but were to include any influential member if the
opportunity arose. As the unit chief stated:
The emphasis was on determining the identity and exposing and neutralizing the
violence prone activities of "Action Groups," but also it was important to expose the
unlawful activities of other Klan organizations. We also made an effort to deter or
counteract the propaganda and to deter violence and to deter recruitment where we
could. This was done with the view that if we could curb the organization, we could
curb the action or the violence within the organization. 84
The White Hate COINTELPRO appears to have been limited, with few exceptions, 85
to the original named targets. No "legitimate" right wing organizations were drawn
into the program, in contrast with the earlier spread of the CPUSA and SWP programs
to non members. This precision has been attributed by the Bureau to the superior
intelligence on "hate" groups received by excellent informant penetration.
Bureau witnesses believe the Klan program to have been highly effective. The
unit chief stated:
I think the Bureau got the job done.. I think that one reason we were able to get the
job done was that we were able to use counterintelligence techniques. It is possible that
we eventually could have done the job without counterintelligence techniques.
I am not sure we could have done it as well or
as quickly. 86
This view was shared by George C. Moore, Section Chief of the Racial Intelligence
Section, which had responsibility for the White Hate and Black Nationalist COINTELPROs:
I think from what I have seen and what I have read, as far as the counterintelligence
program on the, Klan is concerned, that it was effective. I think it was one of the most
effective programs I have ever seen the Bureau handle as far as any group is concerned. 87
5. Black Nationalist-Hate Groups. 88 -- In marked contrast to prior COINTELPROs,
which grew out of years of intensive intelligence investigation, the Black Nationalist
COINTELPRO and the racial intelligence investigative section were set up at about the
same time in 1967.
Prior to that time, the Division's investigation of "Negro matters" was limited to
instances of alleged Communist infiltration of civil rights groups and to
monitoring civil rights protest activity. However, the long, hot summer of 1967 led
to intense pressure on the Bureau to do something to contain the problem,
and once again, the Bureau heeded the call.
The originating letter was sent out to twenty-three field offices on August 25,
1967, describing the program's purpose as
... to expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize the activities
of black nationalist, hate-type organizations and groupings, their leadership,
spokesmen, membership, and supporters, and to counter their propensity for
violence and civil disorder. . . . Efforts of the various groups to consolidate
their forces or to recruit new or youthful adherents must be frustrated. 89
Initial group targets for "intensified attention" were the Southern Christian
Leadership Conference, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee,
Revolutionary Action Movement, Deacons for Defense and Justice, Congress of
Racial Equality, and the Nation of Islam. Individuals named targets were Stokely
Carmichael, H. "Rap" Brown, Elijah Muhammed, and Maxwell
Stanford. The targets were chosen by conferring with Headquarters personnel
supervising the racial cases; the list was not intended to exclude other groups
known to the field.
According to the Black Nationalist supervisor, individuals and organizations
were targeted because of their propensity for violence or their "radical or
revolutionary rhetoric [and] actions":
Revolutionary would be [defined as] advocacy of the overthrow of the
Government.... Radical [is] a loose term that might cover, for example, the
separatist view of the Nation of Islam, the influence of a group called U.S.
Incorporated.... Generally, they wanted a separate black nation.... They [the
NOI] advocated formation of a separate black nation on the territory of five
Southern states. 90
The letter went on to direct field offices to exploit conflicts within and between
groups; to use news media contacts to disrupt, ridicule, or discredit groups; to
preclude "violence-prone" or "rabble rouser" leaders of these groups from
spreading their philosophy publicly; and to gather information on the "unsavory
backgrounds" -- immorality, subversive activity, and criminal
activity-- of group members. 91
According to George C. Moore, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference
was included because
... at that time it was still under investigation because of the communist
infiltration. As far as I know, there were not any violent propensities, except
that I note ... in the cover memo [expanding the program] or somewhere, that
they mentioned that if Martin Luther King decided to go a certain way, he
could cause some trouble.... I cannot explain it satisfactorily . . . this is
something the section inherited. 92
On March 4, 1968, the program was expanded from twenty-three to forty-one
field offices. 93 The letter expanding the program lists five long-range
goals for the program:
(1) to prevent the "coalition of militant black nationalist groups," which might
be the first step toward a real "Mau Mau" in America;
(2) to prevent the rise of a "messiah" who could "unify, and electrify," the
movement, naming specifically Martin Luther King, Stokely Carmichael, and Elijah
(3) to prevent violence on the part of black nationalist groups, by pinpointing
"potential troublemakers" and neutralizing them "before they exercise their
potential for violence;"
(4) to prevent groups and leaders from gaining "respectability" by discrediting
them to the "responsible" Negro community, to the white
community (both the responsible community and the "liberals" -- the distinction is
the Bureau's), and to Negro radicals; and
(5) to prevent the long range growth of these organizations, especially among
youth, by developing specific tactics to "prevent these groups from
recruiting young people." 94
(6) The Panther Directives. -- The Black Panther Party ("BPP") was not included
in the first two lists of primary targets (August 1967 and March 1968) because
it had not attained national importance. By November 1968, apparently the BPP
had become sufficiently active to be considered a primary target. A letter to
certain field offices with BPP activity dated November 25, 1968, ordered
recipient offices to submit "imaginative and hard-hitting counterintelligence
measures aimed at crippling the BPP." Proposals were to be received every two weeks.
Particular attention was to be given to capitalizing upon the differences between the BPP
and US, Inc. (Ron Karenga's group), which had reached such proportions that "it is
taking on the aura of gang warfare with attendant threats of murder and reprisals." 95
On January 30, 1969, this program against the BPP was expanded to additional
offices, noting that the BPP was attempting to create a better image. In line with this
effort, Bobby Seale was conducting a "purge" 96 of the party, including
expelling police informants. Recipient offices were instructed to take advantage
of the opportunity to further plant the seeds of suspicion concerning
disloyalty among ranking officials. 97
Bureau witnesses are not certain whether the Black Nationalist program was
effective. Mr. Moore stated:
I know that the ... overall results of the Klan [COINTELPRO] was much more
effective from what I have been told than the Black Extremism
[COINTELPRO] because of the number of informants in the Klan who could
take action which would be more effective. In the Black Extremism Group . . .
we got a late start because we did not have extremist - activity
[until] '67 and '68. Then we had to play catch-up.... It is not easy to measure
effectiveness.... There were policemen killed in those days. There were bombs
thrown. There were establishments burned with molotov cocktails.... We can
measure that damage. You cannot measure over on the other side, what
lives were saved because somebody did not leave the organization or suspicion
was sown on his leadership and this organization gradually declined
and [there was] suspicion within it, or this organization did not join
with [that] organization as a result of a black power conference which was
aimed towards consolidation efforts. All we know, either through their
own ineptitude, maybe it emerged through counterintelligence, maybe, I think
we like to think that that helped to do it, that there was not this
development. . . . What part did counterintelligence [play?] We hope that it did
play a part. Maybe we just gave it a nudge." 98
(7) New Left. -- The Internal Security Section had undergone a slow transition
from concentrating on the "Old Left" -- the CPUSA and SWP -- to
focusing primarily on the activities of the "New Left" -- a term which had no
precise definition within the Bureau. 99 Some agents defined "New Left"
functionally, by connection with protests. Others defined it by philosophy,
particularly antiwar philosophy.
On October 28, 1968, the fifth and final COINTELPRO was started against this
undefined group. The program was triggered in part by the Columbia
campus disturbance. Once again, law enforcement methods had broken down,
largely (in the Bureau's opinion) because college administrators refused to call the
police on campus to deal with student demonstrations. The atmosphere at
the time was described by the Headquarters agent who supervised the New
During that particular time, there was considerable public, Administration -- I
mean governmental Administration [and] news media interest in the protest
movement to the extent that some groups, I don't recall any specifics, but some
groups were calling for something to be done to blunt or reduce the
protest movements that were disrupting campuses. I can't classify it as exactly an
hysteria, but there was considerable interest [and concern]. That was the
framework that we were working with.... It would be my impression that as
a result of this hysteria, some governmental leaders were looking to the
And, once again, the combination of perceived threat, public outcry, and law
enforcement frustration produced a COINTELPRO.
According to the initiating letter, the counterintelligence program's purpose was
to "expose, disrupt, and otherwise neutralize," the activities of the various New Left
organizations, their leadership, and adherents, with particular attention to Key Activists,
"the moving forces behind the New Left." The final paragraph contains an exhortation
to a "forward look, enthusiasm, and interest" because of the Bureau's concern that
"the anarchist activities of a few can paralyze institutions of learning, induction centers,
cripple traffic, and tie the arms of law enforcement officials all to the detriment of
our society." The internal memorandum recommending the program further sets
forth the Bureau's concerns:
Our Nation is undergoing an era of disruption and violence caused to a large
extent by various individuals generally connected with the New Left. Some of these
activists urge revolution in America and call for the defeat of the United
States in Vietnam. They continually and falsely allege police brutality and do not
hesitate to utilize unlawful acts to further their so-called causes.
The document continues:
The New Left has on many occasions viciously and scurrilously attacked the
Director and the Bureau in an attempt to hamper our investigation of it and
to drive us off the college campuses. 101
Based on those factors, the Bureau decided to institute a new COINTELPRO.
(8) New Left Directives. -- The Bureau's concern with "tying the hands of law
enforcement officers," and with the perceived weakness of college
administrators in refusing to call police onto the campus, led to a May 23, 1968,
directive to all participating field offices to gather information on three
categories of New Left activities:
(1) false allegations of police brutality, to "counter the wide-spread charges of
police brutality that invariably arise following student-police encounters";
(2) immorality, depicting the "scurrilous and depraved nature of many of the
characters, activities, habits, and living conditions representative of New
Left adherents"; and
(3) action by college administrators, "to show the value of college
administrators and school officials taking a firm stand," and pointing out "whether
and to what extent faculty members rendered aid and encouragement."
The letter continues, "Every avenue of possible embarrassment must be
vigorously and enthusiastically explored. It cannot be expected that information of
this type will be easily obtained, and an imaginative approach by your
personnel is imperative to its success." 103
The order to furnish information on "immorality" was not carried out with
sufficient enthusiasm. On October 9, 1968, headquarters sent another letter to all
offices, taking them to task for their failure to "remain alert for and to seek
specific data depicting the depraved nature and moral looseness of the New
Left" and to "use this material in a vigorous and enthusiastic approach to
neutralizing them." 104 Recipient offices were again instructed to be
"particularly alert for this type of data" 105 and told:
As the current school year commences, it can be expected that the New Left
with its anti-war and anti-draft entourage will make every effort to confront
college authorities, stifle military recruiting, and frustrate the Selective Service
System. Each office will be expected, therefore, to afford this program
continuous effective attention in order that no opportunity will be missed to
destroy this insidious movement. 106
As to the police brutality and "college administrator" categories, the Bureau's
belief that getting tough with students and demonstrators would solve
the problem, and that any injuries which resulted were deserved, is reflected in
the Bureau's reaction to allegations of police brutality following the Chicago
On August 28, 1968, a letter was sent to the Chicago field office instructing it to
"obtain all possible evidence that would disprove these charges" [that the
Chicago police used undue force] and to "consider measures by which
cooperative news media may be used to counteract these allegations." The
administrative "note" (for the file) states :
Once again, the liberal press and the bleeding hearts and the forces on the left
are taking advantage of the situation in Chicago surrounding the Democratic
National Convention to attack the police and organized law enforcement agencies....
We should be mindful of this situation and develop all possible evidence to
expose this activity and to refute these false allegations. 107
In the same vein, on September 9, 1968, an instruction was sent to all offices
which had sent informants to the Chicago convention demonstrations, ordering
them to debrief the informants for information "indicating incidents were staged to
show police reacted with undue force and any information that authorities
were baited by militants into using force." 108 The offices were also to obtain
evidence of possible violations of anti-riot laws. 109
The originating New Left letter had asked all recipient offices to respond with
suggestions for counterintelligence action. Those responses were analyzed
and a letter sent to all offices on July 6, 1968, setting forth twelve suggestions
for counterintelligence action which could be utilized by all
offices. Briefly the techniques are:
(1) preparing leaflets designed to discredit student demonstrators, using
photographs of New Left leadership at the respective universities. "Naturally, the
most obnoxious pictures should be used";
(2) instigating "personal conflicts or animosities" between New Left leaders;
(3) creating the impression that leaders are "informants for the Bureau or other
law enforcement agencies";
(4) sending articles from student newspapers or the "underground press" which
show the depravity of the New Left to university officials, donors,
legislators, and parents. "Articles showing advocation of the use of narcotics and
free sex are ideal";
(5) having members arrested on marijuana charges;
(6) sending anonymous letters about a student's activities to parents, neighbors,
and the parents' employers. "This could have the effect of forcing the parents to
(7) sending anonymous letters or leaflets describing the "activities and
associations" of New Left faculty members and graduate assistants to university
officials, legislators, Boards of Regents, and the press. "These letters
should be signed 'A Concerned Alumni,' or 'A Concerned Taxpayer'";
(8) using cooperative press contacts" to emphasize that the "disruptive
constitute a "minority" of the students. "The press should demand an
immediate referendum on the issue in question";
(9) exploiting the "hostility" among the SDS and other New Left groups toward
the SWP, YSA, and Progressive Labor Party;
(10) using "friendly news media'' and law enforcement officials to disrupt New
Left coffeehouses near military bases which are attempting to "influence
members of the Armed Forces";
(11) using cartoons, photographs, and anonymous letters to "ridicule" the New
(12) using "misinformation" to "confuse and disrupt" New Left activities, such as
by notifying members that events have been cancelled. 110
As noted earlier, the lack of any Bureau definition of "New Left" resulted in
targeting almost every anti-war group, 111 and spread to students demonstrating
against anything. One notable example is a proposal targeting a student who
carried an "obscene" sign in a demonstration protesting administration censorship
of the school newspaper, and another student who sent a letter to that paper
defending the demonstration. 112 In another article regarding "free love" on a
university campus was anonymously mailed to college administrators and state
officials since free love allows "an atmosphere to build up on campus that will be a
fertile field for the New Left." 113
None of the Bureau witnesses deposed believes the New Left COINTELPRO
was generally effective, in part because of the imprecise targeting.
III. THE GOALS OF COINTELPRO: PREVENTING OR DISRUPTING
THE EXERCISE OF FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS
The origins of COINTELPRO demonstrate that the Bureau adopted extralegal
methods to counter perceived threats to national security and public
order because the ordinary legal processes were believed to be
insufficient to do the job. In essence, the Bureau took the law into its own hands,
conducting a sophisticated vigilante operation against domestic enemies.
The risks inherent in setting aside the laws, even though the, purpose seems
compelling at the time, were described by Tom Charles Huston in his testimony
before the Committee: 114
The risk was that you would get people who would be susceptible to political
considerations as opposed to national security considerations, or
would construe political considerations to be national security considerations,
to move from the kid with a bomb to the kid with a picket sign, and from the
kid with the picket sign to the kid with the bumper sticker of the opposing
candidate. And you just keep going down the line. 115
The description is apt. Certainly, COINTELPRO took in a staggering range of
targets. As noted earlier, the choice of individuals and organizations to be
neutralized and disrupted ranged from the violent elements of the Black Panther
Party to Martin Luther King, Jr., who the Bureau concedes was an advocate of
nonviolence; from the Communist Party to the Ku Klux Klan; and from the
advocates of violent revolution such as the Weathermen, to the supporters of
peaceful social change, including the Southern Christian Leadership
Conference and the Inter-University Committee for Debate on Foreign Policy.
The breadth of targeting springs partly from a lack of definition for the categories
involved, and partly from the Bureau's belief that dissident speech and
association should be prevented because they were incipient steps toward the
possible ultimate commission of an act which might be criminal. Thus, the Bureau's
self-imposed role as protector of the existing political and social order blurred the line
between targeting criminal activity and constitutionally protected acts and advocacy.
The clearest example of actions directly aimed at the exercise of constitutional
rights are those targeting speakers, teachers, writers or publications, and
meetings or peaceful demonstrations. 116 Approximately 18 percent of all
approved COINTELPRO proposals fell into these categories. 117
The cases include attempts (sometimes successful) to get university and high
school teachers fired; to prevent targets from speaking on campus; to stop
chapters of target groups from being formed; to prevent the distribution of books,
newspapers, or periodicals; to disrupt news conferences; to disrupt peaceful
demonstrations, including the SCLCs Washington Spring Project and Poor People's
Campaign, and most of the large antiwar marches; and to deny facilities for meetings
A. Efforts to Prevent Speaking
An illustrative example of attacks on speaking concerns the plans of a dissident
stockholders' group to protest a large corporation's war production at the annual
stockholders meeting. 118 The field office was authorized to furnish information
about the group's plans (obtained from paid informants in the group) to a confidential
source in the company's management. The Bureau's purpose was not only to
"circumvent efforts to disrupt the corporate meeting," but also to prevent any attempt
to "obtain publicity or embarrass" corporate officials. 119
In another case, 120 anonymous telephone calls were made to the editorial
desks of three newspapers in a Midwestern city, advising them that a lecture
to be given on a university campus was actually being sponsored by a
Communist-front organization. The university had recently lifted its ban on
Communist speakers on campus and was experiencing some political difficulty over
this decision. The express purpose of the phone calls was to prevent a
Communist-sponsored speaker from appearing on campus and, for a time, it
appeared to have worked. One of the newspapers contacted the director of the
university's conference center. He in turn discussed the meeting with the
president of the university who decided to cancel the meeting. 121 The
sponsoring organization, supported by the ACLU, took the case to court, and
won a ruling that the university could not bar the speaker. (Bureau
headquarters then ordered the field office to furnish information on the judge.)
Although the lecture went ahead as scheduled, headquarters commended the
field office for the affirmative results of its suggestion: the sponsoring
organization had been forced to incur additional expense and attorneys' fees,
and had received newspaper exposure of its "true communist character."
B. Efforts to Prevent Teaching
Teachers were targeted because the Bureau believed that they were in a
unique position to "plant the seeds of communism [or whatever ideology was
under attack] in the minds of unsuspecting youth." Further, as noted earlier, it was
believed that a teacher's position gave respectability to whatever cause he
supported. In one case, a high school teacher was targeted for inviting two
poets to attend a class at his school. The poets were noted for their efforts
in the draft resistance movement. This invitation led to an investigation by
the local police, which in turn provoked sharp criticism from the ACLU.
The field office was authorized to send anonymous letters to two local newspapers,
to the city Board of Education, and to the high school administration, suggesting
that the ACLU should not criticize the police for probing into high school activities,
"but should rather have focused attention on [the teacher] who has been a
convicted draft dodger." The letter continued, "[the teacher] is the assault on
academic freedom and not the local police." The purpose of the letter,
according to Bureau documents, was "to highlight [the teacher's] antidraft
activities at the local high school" and to "discourage any efforts" he may make
there. The letter was also intended to "show support for the local police against
obvious attempts by the New Left to agitate in the high schools." 122
No results were reported.
In another case, 123 a university professor who was "an active participant in
New Left demonstrations" had publicly surrendered his draft card and had
been arrested twice, (but not convicted) in antiwar demonstrations. The Bureau
decided that the professor should be "removed from his position" at the
university. The field office was authorized to contact a "confidential source" at a
foundation which contributed substantial funds to the university, and
"discreetly suggest that the [foundation] may desire to call to the attention of the
University administration questions concerning the advisability of [the professor's]
continuing his position there." The foundation official was told by the
university that the professor's contract would not be renewed, but in fact the
professor did continue to teach. The following academic year, therefore, the field
office was authorized to furnish additional information to the foundation
official on the professor's arrest and conviction (with a, suspended sentence) in
another demonstration. No results were reported.
In a third instance, the Bureau attempted to "discredit and neutralize" a university
professor and the Inter-University Committee for Debate on Foreign Policy, in which lie
was active. The field office was authorized to send a fictitious name letter to influential
state political figures, the mass media, university administrators, and the Board of Regents,
accusing the professor and "his protesting cohorts" of "giving aid and comfort to the enemy,"
and wondering "if the strategy is to bleed the United States white by prolonging the war
in Vietnam and pave the way for a takeover by Russia." No results were reported. 124
C. Efforts to Prevent Writing and Publishing
The Bureau's purpose in targeting attempts to speak was explicitly to prevent the
"propagation" of a target's philosophy and to deter "recruitment" of new members.
Publications and writers appear to have been targeted for the same reasons. In one
example, 125 two university instructors were targeted solely because they were
influential in the publication of and contributed financial support to a student
"underground" newspaper whose editorial policy was described as "left-of-center,
anti-establishment, and opposed [to] the University administration." The Bureau
believed that if the two instructors were forced to withdraw their support of the
newspaper, it would "fold and cease publication. . . . This would eliminate what
voice the New Left has in the area." Accordingly, the field office was authorized
to send an anonymous letter to a university official furnishing information
concerning the instructors' association with the newspaper, with a warning that if
the university did not persuade the instructors to cease their support, the letter's
author would be forced to expose their activities publicly. The field office reported
that as a result of this technique, both teachers were placed on probation
by the university president, which would prevent them from getting any raises.
Newspapers were a common target. The Black Panther Party paper was the
subject of a number of actions, both because of its contents and because it was a
source of income for the Party. 126 Other examples include contacting the
landlord of premises rented by two "New Left" newspapers in an attempt to
get them evicted; 121 an anonymous letter to a state legislator protesting the
distribution on campus of an underground newspaper "representative of the
type of mentality that is following the New Left theory of immorality on
certain college campuses"; 128 a letter signed "Disgusted Taxpayer and
Patron" to advertisers in a student newspaper intended to "increase
pressure on the student newspaper to discontinue the type of journalism that
had been employed'' (an article had quoted a demonstrator's "vulgar
Ianguage"); 129 and proposals (which, according to the Bureau's response to a
staff inquiry, were never carried out) to physically disrupt printing plants. 130
D. Efforts to Prevent Meeting
The Bureau also attempted to prevent target groups from meeting. Frequently
used techniques include contacting the, owner of meeting facilities in order to
have him refuse to rent to the group; 131 trying to have a group's charter revoked;
132 using the press to disrupt a "closed" meeting by arriving unannounced; 133
and attempting to persuade sponsors to withdraw funds. 134 The most striking
examples of attacks meeting, however, involve the use of "disinformation." 135
In one "disinformation" case, the Chicago Field Office duplicated blank forms
prepared by the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam ("NMC")
soliciting housing for demonstators coming to Chicago for the Democratic
National Convention. Chicago filled out 217 of these forms with fictitious names
and addresses and sent them to the NMC, which provided them to demonstrators
who made "long and useless journeys to locate these addresses." The NMC then
decided to discard all replies received on the housing forms rather than have
out-of-town demonstrators try to locate nonexistent addresses. 136 (The same
program was carried out when the Washington Mobilization Committee distributed
housing forms for demonstrators coming to Washington for the 1969 Presidential
inaugural ceremonies.) 137
In another case, during the demonstrations accompanying inauguration
ceremonies, the Washington Field Office discovered that NMC marshals were
using walkie-talkies to coordinate their movements and activities. WFO used
the same citizen band to supply the marshals with misinformation and,
pretending to be an NMC unit, countermanded NMC orders. 138
In a third case 139 a midwest field office disrupted arrangements for state
university students to attend the 1969 inaugural demonstrations by making a series
of anonymous telephone calls to the transportation company. The calls
were designed to confuse both the transportation company and the SDS
leaders as to the cost of transportation and the time and place for leaving and
returning. This office also placed confusing leaflets around the campus to
show different times and places for demonstration-planning meetings, as
well as conflicting times and dates for traveling to Washington.
In a fourth instance, the "East Village Other" planned to bomb the Pentagon with
flowers during the 1967 NMC rally in Washington. The New York office
answered the ad for a pilot, and kept up the pretense right to the point at which
the publisher showed up at the airport with 200 pounds of flowers, with
no one to fly the plane. Thus, the Bureau was able to prevent this "agitational-
propaganda activity as relates to dropping flowers over Washington." 140
The cases discussed above are just a few examples of the Bureau's direct attack
on speaking, teaching, writing and meeting. Other instances include targeting
the New Mexico Free University for teaching, among other things, "confrontation
politics" and "draft counseling training." 141 In another case, an editorial
cartoonist for a northeast newspaper was asked to prepare a cartoon which
would "ridicule and discredit" a group of antiwar activists who traveled to North
Vietnam to inspect conditions there; the cartoon was intended to "depict [the
individuals] as traitors to their country for traveling to North Vietnam
and making utterances against the foreign policy of the United States." 142 A
professor was targeted for being the faculty advisor to a college group which
circulated "The Student As Nigger" on campus."' A professor conducting a
study on the effect and social costs of McCarthyism was targeted because he
sought information and help from the American Institute of Marxist Studies.
144 Contacts were made with three separate law schools in an attempt to keep
a teaching candidate from being hired, or once hired, from getting his
contract renewed. 145
The attacks on speaking, teaching, writing, and meeting have been examined in
some detail because they present, in their purist form, the consequences of acting
outside the legal process. Perhaps the Bureau was correct in its assumption
that words lead to deeds, and that larger group membership produces a greater
risk of violence. Nevertheless, the law draws the line between criminal acts and
constitutionally protected activity, and that line must be kept. 146
As Justice Brandeis declared in a different context fifty years ago:
Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it
teaches the whole people, by its example. Crime is contagious. If the
Government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law: it invites every
man to become a law unto himself. To declare that in the administration
of the criminal law the end justifies the means -- to declare that the Government
may commit crimes in order to secure the conviction of the private criminal --
would bring terrible retribution. Against the pernicious doctrine this Court
should resolutely set its face. Olmstead v. U.S., 277 U.S. 439,485 (1927)
IV. COINTELPRO TECHNIQUES
The techniques used in COINTELPRO were -- and are -- used against hostile foreign
intelligence agents. Sullivan's testimony that the "rough, tough, dirty business'' 147
of foreign counterintelligence was brought home against domestic enemies was
corroborated by George Moore, whose Racial Intelligence Section supervised the White
Hate and Black Nationalist COINTELPROs:
You can trace [the origins] up and back to foreign intelligence, particularly
penetration of the group by the individual informant. Before you can engage in
counterintelligence you must have intelligence .... If you have good intelligence and
know what it's going to do, you can seed distrust, sow misinformation. The same
technique is used in the foreign field. The same technique is used, misinformation,
disruption, is used in the domestic groups, although in the domestic groups
you are dealing in '67 and '68 with many, many more across
the country ... than you had ever dealt with as far as your foreign groups. 148
The arsenal of techniques used in the Bureau's secret war against domestic
enemies ranged from the trivial to the life endangering. Slightly more than a quarter
of all approved actions were intended to promote factionalization within groups and
between groups; a roughly equal number of actions involved the creation and
dissemination of propaganda. 149 Other techniques involved the use of federal, state,
and local agencies in selective law enforcement, and other use (and abuse) of
government processes; disseminating derogatory information to family, friends, and
associates; contacting employers; exposing "communist infiltration" or support
of target groups; and using organizations which were hostile to target groups to
disrupt meetings or otherwise attack the targets.
The Bureau's COINTELPRO propaganda efforts stem from the same basic premise
as the attacks on speaking, teaching, writing and meeting: propaganda works.
Certain ideas are dangerous, and if their expression cannot be prevented, they
should be countered with Bureau-approved views. Three basic techniques were used:
(1) mailing reprints of newspaper and magazine articles to group members or
potential supporters intended to convince them of the error of their ways; (2) writing
articles for or furnishing information to "friendly" media sources to "expose" target
groups; 150 and (3) writing, printing, and disseminating pamphlets and fliers without
identifying the Bureau as the source.
1. Reprint Mailings
The documents contain case after case of articles and newspaper clippings being
mailed (anonymously, of course) to group members. The Jewish members of the
Communist Party appear to have been inundated with clippings dealing with
Soviet mistreatment of Jews. Similarly, Jewish supporters of the Black Panther Party
received articles from the BPP newspaper containing anti-Semitic statements. College
reprints of a Reader's Digest article 151 and a Barron's article on
campus disturbances intended to persuade them to "get tough." 152
Perhaps only one example need be examined in detail, and that only because it
clearly sets forth the purpose of propaganda reprint mailings. Fifty copies of an article
entitled "Rabbi in Vietnam Says Withdrawal Not the Answer," escribed as "an excellent
article in support of United States foreign policy in Vietnam," were mailed to
certain unnamed professors and members of the Vietnam Day Committee "who have
no other subversive organizational affiliations." The purpose of the mailing was "to
convince [the recipients] of the correctness of the U.S. foreign policy in Vietnam." 153
Reprint mailings would seem to fall under Attorney General Levi's characterization
of much of COINTELPRO as "foolishness." 154 They violate no one's civil rights, but
should the Bureau be in the anonymous propaganda business?
2. "Friendly'' Media
Much of the Bureau's propaganda efforts involved giving information or articles to
"friendly" media sources who could be relied upon not to reveal the Bureau's interests. 155
The Crime Records Division of the Bureau was responsible for public relations, including
all headquarters contacts with the media. In the course of its work (most of which had
nothing to do with COINTELPRO) the Division assembled a list of "friendly" news media
sources -- those who wrote pro-Bureau stories. 156 Field offices also had "confidential
sources" (unpaid Bureau informants) in the media, and were able to ensure their cooperation.
The Bureau's use of the news media took two different forms: placing unfavorable
articles and documentaries about targeted groups, and leaking derogatory information
intended to discredit individuals. 157
A typical example of media propaganda is the headquarters letter authorizing the
Boston Field Office to furnish "derogatory information about the Nation of Islam (NOI)
to established source [name excised)": 158
Your suggestions concerning material to furnish [name] are good. Emphasize to him
that the NOI predilection for violence, preaching of race hatred, and hypocrisy, should
1 be exposed. Material furnished [name] should be either public source or known to
enough people as to protect your sources. Insure the Bureau's interest in this matter
is completely protected by [name]. 160
In another case, information on the Junta of Militant Organizations ("JOMO", a Black
Nationalist target) was furnished to a source at a Tampa television station. 161
Ironically, the station manager, who had no knowledge of the Bureau's involvement,
invited the Special Agent in Charge, his assistant, and other agents to a preview of the
half-hour film which resulted. The SAC complimented the station manager on his product,
and suggested that it be made available to civic groups. 162
A Miami television station made four separate documentaries (on the Klan, Black
Nationalist groups, and the New Left) with materials secretly supplied by the Bureau. One
of the documentaries, which had played to an estimated audience of 200,000, was the
subject of an internal memorandum "to advise of highly successful results of
counterintelligence, exposing the black extremist Nation of Islam."
[Excised] was elated at the response. The station received more favorable telephone calls
from viewers than the switchboard could handle. Community leaders have commented
favorably on the program, three civic organizations have asked to show the film to their
members as a public service, and the Broward County Sheriff's Office plans to show the film
to its officers and in connection with its community service program.
This expose showed that NOI leaders are of questionable character and live in luxury
through a large amount of money taken as contributions from their members. The extreme
nature of NOI teachings was underscored. Miami sources advised the expose has caused
considerable concern to local NOI leaders who have attempted to rebut the program at
each open meeting of the NOI since the program was presented. Local NOI leaders plan a
rebuttal in the NOI newspaper. Attendance by visitors at weekly NOI meetings has
dropped 50%. This shows the value of carefully planned counterintelligence action. 163
The Bureau also planted derogatory articles about the Poor People's Campaign, the
Institute for Policy Studies, the Southern Students Organizing Committee, the National
Mobilization Committee, and a host of other organizations it believed needed to be seen in
their "true light."
3. Bureau-Authored Pamphlets and Fliers.
The Bureau occasionally drafted, printed, and distributed its own propaganda. These
pieces were usually intended to ridicule their targets, rather than offer "straight" propaganda
on the issue. Four of these fliers are reproduced in the following pages.
NOTE: Memorandum from New York Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 1/14/70;
memorandum from FBI Headquarters to New York Field Office, 1/20/70.
NOTE: Memorandum from New York Field Office to FBI Headquarters,
2/7/69; memorandum from FBI Headquarters to New York Field Office, 2/14/69.
NOTE: Memorandum from New York Field Office to FBI Headquarters,
1/21/69; memorandum from FBI Headquarters to New York Field Office, 1/24/69.
NOTE: Memorandum from New York Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 8/5/69;
memorandum from FBI Headquarters to New York Field Office, 8/11/69.
B. Effects to Promote Enmity and Factionalism Within Groups or Between Groups
Approximately 28% of the Bureau's COINTELPRO efforts were designed to weaken
groups by setting members against each other, or to separate groups which might
otherwise be allies, and convert them into mutual enemies. The techniques used
included anonymous mailings (reprints, Bureau-authored articles and letters) to group
members criticizing a leader or an allied group; 164 using informants to raise
controversial issues; forming a "notional" -- a Bureau run` splinter group -- to draw
away membership from the target organization; encouraging hostility up to
and including gang warfare between rival groups; and the "snitch jacket."
1. Encouraging Violence Between Rival Groups
The Bureau's attempts to capitalize on active hostility between target groups carried
with them the risk of serious physical injury to the targets.
As the Black Nationalist supervisor put it:
It is not easy [to judge the risks inherent in this technique]. You make the best
judgment you can based on all the circumstances and you always have an
element of doubt where you are dealing with individuals that I think most people
would characterize as having a degree of instability. 65
The Bureau took that risk. The Panther directive instructing recipient officers to
encourage the differences between the Panthers and U.S., Inc. which were
"taking on the aura of gang warfare with attendant threats of murder
and reprisals," 166 is just one example.
A separate report on disruptive efforts aimed at the Panthers will examine in
detail the Bureau's attempts to foment violence. These efforts included
anonymously distributing cartoons which pictured the U.S. organization gloating
over the corpses of two murdered Panthers, and suggested that other
BPP members would be next, 167 and sending a New Jersey Panther
leader the following letter which purported to be from an SDS member: 168
"To Former Comrade [name]
"As one of 'those little bourgeois, snooty nose' -- 'little schoolboys' --
'Iittle sissies' Dave Hilliard spoke of in the 'Guardian' of 8/16/69, I would like
to say that you and the rest of you black racists can go to hell. I stood shoulder
to shoulder with Carl Nichols last year in Military Park in Newark and got my
a--- whipped by a Newark pig all for the cause of the wineheads like you and
the rest of the black pussycats that call themselves Panthers. Big deal, you have
to have a three hour educational session just to teach those ... (you all know what
that means don't you! It's the first word your handkerchief head mamma
teaches you) how to spell it.
"Who the hell set you and the Panthers up as the vanguard of the revolutionary
and disciplinary group. You can tell all those wineheads you associate with that
you'll kick no one's '... a---,' because you'd have to take a three year course in
spelling to know what an a--- is and three more years to be taught where it's located.
"Julius Lester called the BPP the vanguard (that's leader) organization so
international whore Cleaver calls him racist, now when full allegiance is not given
to the Panthers, again racist. What the hell do you want? Are you getting
this? Are you lost? If you're not digging then you're really hopeless.
"Oh yes! We are not concerned about Hilliard's threats.
"Brains will win over brawn. The way the Panthers have retaliated against US is
another indication. The score: US-6: Panthers-0.
"Why, I read an article in the Panther paper where a California Panther sat in his
car and watched his friend get shot by Karenga's group and what did he
do? He run back and write a full page story about how tough the Panthers
are and what they're going to do. Ha Ha -- B -- S --.
"Goodbye [name] baby-and watch out. Karenga's coming.
"'Right On' as they say."
An anonymous letter was also sent to the leader of the Blackstone Rangers, a
Chicago gang "to whom violent type activity, shooting, and the like, are second
nature," advising him that "the brothers that run the Panthers blame you for blocking
their thing and there's supposed to be a hit out for you." The letter was intended
to "intensify the degree of animosity between the two groups" and cause "retaliatory
action which could disrupt the BPP or lead to reprisals against its leadership." 169
What's with this bull---- SDS outfit? I'll tell you what they has finally showed
there true color White. They are just like the commies and all the other
white radical groups that suck up to the blacks and use us. We voted at
our meeting in Oakland for community control over the pigs but SDS says
no. Well we can do with out them mothers. We can do it by ourselfs.
OFF THE PIGS POWER TO THE PEOPLE
Soul Brother Jake
In another case, the Bureau tried to promote violence, not between violent
groups, but between a possibly violent person and another target. The field
office was given permission to arrange a meeting between an SCLC officer
and the leader of a small group described as "anti-Vietnam black nationalist
[veterans'] organization." The leader of the veterans' group was known to be
upset because he was not receiving funds from the SCLC. He was also
known to be on leave from a mental hospital, and the Bureau had been advised that
he would be recommitted if he were arrested on any charge. It was believed
that "if the confrontation occurs at SCLC headquarters," the veterans' group
leader "will lose his temper, start a fight," and the "police will be called in."
The purpose was to "neutralize" the leader by causing his commitment to
a mental hospital, and to gain "unfavorable publicity for the SCLC." 170
At least four assaults -- two of them on women -- were reported as "results" of
Bureau actions. The San Diego field office claimed credit for three of them. In one
case, US members "broke into" a BPP meeting and "roughed up" a woman member. 171
In the second instance, a critical newspaper article in the Black Panther paper was
sent to the US leader. The field office noted that "the possibility exists that some sort of
retaliatory actions will be taken against the BPP." 172 The prediction proved
correct; the field office reported that as a result of this mailing, members of US
assaulted a Panther newspaper vendor. 173 The third assault occurred after
the San Diego Police Department, acting on a tip from the Bureau that "sex orgies"
were taking place at Panther headquarters, raided the
premises. (The police department conducted a "research project," discovered two
outstanding traffic warrants for a BPP member, and used the warrants to gain
entry.) The field office reported that as a "direct result" of
the raid, the woman who allowed the officers into the BPP headquarters had
been "severely beaten up" by other members." 174
In the fourth case, the New Haven field office reported that an informant had
joined in a "heated conversation" between several group members and sided with
one of the parties "in order to increase the tension." The argument ended
with members hitting each other. The informant "departed the premises at this
point, since he felt that he had been successful, causing a flammable
situation to erupt into a fight." 175
2. Anonymous Mailings
The Bureau's use of anonymous mailings to promote factionalism range from the
relatively bland mailing of reprints or fliers criticizing a group's leaders for
living ostentatiously or being ineffective speakers, to reporting a chapter's
infractions to the group's headquarters intended to cause censure or disciplinary action.
Critical letters were also sent to one group purporting to be from another, or from
a member of the group registering a protest over a proposed alliance.
For instance, the Bureau was particularly concerned with the alliance between the
SDS and the Black Panther Party. A typical example of anonymous
mailing intended to separate these groups is a letter sent to the Black Panther
newspaper: 176 [sic - report did not contain text of letter. - PW]
In a similar vein, is a letter mailed to Black Panther and New Left leaders. 177
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Since when do us Blacks have to swallow the dictates of the honky SDS?
Doing this only hinders the Party progress in gaining Black control over Black
people. We've been over by the white facists pigs and the Man's control over our
destiny. We're sick and tired of being severly brutalized, denied our rights and
treated like animals by the white pigs. We say to hell with the SDS and its honky
intellectual approaches which only perpetuate control of Black people by the honkies.
The Black Panther Party theory for community control is the only answer to our
problems and that is to be followed and enforced by all means necessary to
insure control by Blacks over all police departments regardless of whether
they are run by honkies or uncle toms.
The damn SDS is a paper organization with a severe case of diarhea of the
mouth which has done nothing but feed us lip service. Those few idiots calling
themselves weathermen run around like kids on halloween. A good
example is their "militant" activities at the Northland Shopping Center a
couple of weeks ago. They call themselves revolutionaries but take a look at
who they are. Most of them come from well heeled families even by honky
standards. They think they're helping us Blacks but their futile,
misguided and above all white efforts only muddy the revolutionary waters.
The time has come for an absolute break with any non-Black group and especially
those ------- SDS and a return to our pursuit of a pure black revolution by Blacks for Blacks.
Off the Pigs!!!!
These examples are not, of course, exclusive, but they do give the flavor of the
anonymous mailings effort.
Interviewing group members or supporters was an overt "investigative" technique
sometimes used for the covert purpose of disruption. For example, one field
office noted that "other [BPP] weaknesses that have been capitalized on include
interviews of members wherein jealousy among the members has been stimulated
and at the same time has caused a number of persons to fall
under suspicion and be purged from the Party." 178
In another case, fourteen field offices were instructed to conduct simultaneous
interviews of individuals known to have been contacted by members of the Revolutionary
Union. The purpose of the coordinated interviews was "to make possible affiliates
of the RU believe that the organization is infiltrated by informants on a high level. 179
In a third instance, 'a "black nationalist" target attempted to organize a youth group
in Mississippi. The field office used informants to determine "the identities of leaders of
this group and in interviewing these leaders, expressed to them [the target's] background
and his true intentions regarding organizing Negro youth groups." Agents also interviewed
the target's landlords and "advised them of certain aspects of [his] past activities and his
reputation in the Jackson vicinity as being a Negro extremist." Three of the landlords asked
the target to move. 180 The same field office reported that it had interviewed members of
the Tougaloo College Political Action Committee, an "SNCC - affiliated" student group. The
members were interviewed while they were home on summer vacation. "Sources report
that these interviews had a very upsetting effect on the PAC organization and they felt they
have been betrayed by someone at Tougaloo College. Many of the members have limited
their participation in PAC affairs since their interview by Agents during the summer
of 1968." 181
4. Using Informants To Raise Controversial Issues
The Bureau's use of informants generally is the subject of a separate report. It is
worth noting here, however, that the use of informants to take advantage of
ideological splits in an organization dates back to the first COINTELPRO. The
originating CUPSA document refers to the use of informants to capitalize on
the discussion within the Party following Khrushchev's denunciation of Stalin. 182
Informants were also used to widen rifts in other organizations. For instance, an
informant was instructed to imply that the head of one faction of the SDS was
using group funds for his drug habit, and that a second leader embezzled funds at
another school. The field office reported that "as a result of actions taken by this
informant, there have been fist fights and acts of name calling at several of the
recent SDS meetings." In addition, members of one faction "have made early morning
telephone calls" to other SDS members and "have threatened them and
attempted to discourage them from attending SDS meetings." 183
In another case, an informant was used to "raise the question" among his associates
that an unmarried, 30-year old group leader "may either a bisexual or a homosexual."
The field office believed that the question would "rapidly 'become a
rumor" and "could have serious results concerning the ability and effectiveness
of [the target's] leadership." 184
5. Fictitious Organizations
There are basically three kinds of "notional" or fictitious organizations. All three
were used in COINTELPRO attempts to factionalize.
The first kind of "notional" was the organization whose members were all Bureau
informants. Because of the Committee's agreement with the Bureau not to reveal the
identities of informants, the only example which can be discussed publicly is a proposal
which, although approved, was never implemented. That proposal involved setting up
a chapter of the W.E.B. DuBois Club in a Southern city which would be composed entirely
of Bureau informants and fictitious persons. The initial purpose of the chapter was to
cause the CPUSA expense by sending organizers into the area, cause the Party to fund
Bureau coverage of out-of-town CP meetings by paying the informants' expenses, and
receive literature and instructions. Later, the chapter was to begin to engage in deviation
from the Party line so that it would be expelled from the main organization "and then
they could claim to be the victim of a Stalinist type purge." It was anticipated that the
entire operation would take no more than 18 months. 185
The second kind of "notional" was the fictitious organization with some unsuspecting
(non-informant) members. For example, Bureau informants set up a Klan
organization intended to attract membership away from the United Klans of America.
The Bureau paid the informant's personal expenses in setting up the new organization,
which had, at its height, 250 members. 186
The third type of "notional" was the wholly fictitious organization, with no actual
members, which was used as a pseudonym for mailing letters or pamphlets. For
instance, the Bureau sent out newsletters from something called "The Committee
for Expansion of Socialist Thought in America," which attacked the CPUSA
from the "Marxist right" for at least two years. 187
6. Labeling Targets As Informants
The "snitch jacket" technique -- neutralizing a target by labeling him a "snitch" or
informant, so that he would no longer be trusted -- was used in all COINTELPROs.
The methods utilized ranged from having an authentic informant start a rumor
about the target member, 188 to anonymous letters or phone calls, 189 to faked
informants' reports. 190
When the technique was used against a member of a nonviolent group, the result
was often alienation from the group. For example, a San Diego man was targeted
because he was active in draft counseling at the city's Message Information Center.
He had, coincidentally, been present at the arrest of a Selective Service violator, and had
been at a "crash pad" just prior to the arrest of a second violator. The Bureau used a
real informant to suggest at a Center meeting that it was "strange" that the two men
had been arrested by federal agents shortly after the target became aware of their
locations. The field office reported that the target had been "completely ostracized by
members of the Message Information Center and all of the other individuals
throughout the area . . . associated with this and/or related groups." 191
In another case, a local police officer was used to "jacket" the head of the Student
Mobilization Committee at the University of South Carolina. The police officer picked
up two members of the Committee on the pretext of interviewing them concerning
narcotics. By prearranged signal, he had his radio operator call him with the message,
"[name of target] just called. Wants you to contact her. Said you have her number."192
No results were reported.
The "snitch jacket'' is a particularly nasty technique even when used in peaceful
groups. It gains an added dimension of danger when it is used -- as,
indeed, it was -- in groups known to have murdered informers. 193
For instance, a Black Panther leader was arrested by the local police with four
other members of the BPP. The others were released, but the leader
remained in custody. Headquarters authorized the field office to circulate the rumor
that the leader "is the last to be released" because "he is cooperating
with and has made a deal with the Los Angeles Police Department to furnish them
information concerning the BPP."
The target of the first proposal then received an anonymous phone call stating
that his own arrest was caused by a rival leader. 194
In another case, the Bureau learned that the chairman of the New York BPP
chapter was under suspicion as an informant because of the arrest of another
member for weapons possession. In order to "cast further suspicion on him"
the Bureau sent anonymous letters to BPP headquarters in the state, the
wife of the arrested member, and a local member of CORE, saying
"Danger-Beware-Black Brothers, [name of target] is the fink who told the pigs
that [arrested members] were carrying guns." The letter also gave the
target's address. 195
In a third instance, the Bureau learned through electronic surveillance of the BPP
the whereabouts of a fugitive. After his arrest, the Bureau sent a letter in a
"purposely somewhat illiterate type scrawl" to the fugitive's half-brother:
Jimmie was sold out by Sister [name -- the BPP leader who made the phone
call picked up by the tap] for some pig money to pay her rent. When she
don't get it that way she takes Panther money. How come her kid sells the
paper in his school and no one bothers him. How comes Tyler got busted up
by the pigs and her kid didn't. How comes the FBI pig fascists knew where
to bust Lonnie and Minnie way out where they were.
--- Think baby. 196
In another example, the chairman of the Kansas City BPP chapter went to
Washington in an attempt to testify before a Senate subcommittee about information
he allegedly possessed about the transfer of firearms from the Kansas City
Police Department to a retired Army General. The attempt did not succeed; the
committee chairman adjourned the hearing and then asked the BPP member to
present his information to an aide. The Bureau then authorized an anonymous
phone call to BPP headquarters "to the effect that [the target] was paid by the
committee to testify, that he has cooperated fully with this committee, and
that he intends to return at a later date to furnish additional testimony
which will include complete details of the BPP operation in Kansas City." 197
In the fifth case, the Bureau had so successfully disrupted the San Diego BPP
that it no longer existed. One of the former members, however, was
"'politicking' for the position of local leader if the group is ever reorganized."
Headquarters authorized the San Diego field office to send anonymous notes to
"selected individuals within the black community of San Diego" to "initiate the
rumor that [the target], who has aspirations of becoming the local Black
Panther Party Captain, is a police informant." 198
In a sixth case, a letter alleging that a Washington, D.C., BPP leader was a police
informant was sent "as part of our continuing effort to foment internal
dissension within ranks of Black Panther Party:" 199
Brother: I recently read in the Black Panther newspaper about that low dog
Gaines down in Texas who betrayed his people to the pigs and it reminded me of a
recent incident that I should tell you about. Around the first part of Feb. I was
locked up at the local pigpen when the pigs brought in this dude, who told
me he was a Panther. This dude who said his name was [deleted] said he
was vamped on by six pigs and was brutalized by them. This dude talked
real bad and said he had killed pip and was going to get more when he got out,
so I thought he probably was one of you. The morning after [name] was
brought in a couple of other dudes in suits came to see him and called him out
of the cell and he was gone a couple of hours. Later on these dudes came
back again to see him. [Name] told me the dudes were his lawyers but
they smelled like pig to me. It seems to me that you might want to look into
this because I know you don't want anymore low-life dogs helping the
pigs brutalize the people. You don't know me and I'm not a Panther but I
want to help with the cause when I can.
A lumpen brother
In a seventh case, the "most influential BPP activist in North Carolina" had been
photographed outside a house where, a "shoot out" with local police had
taken place. The photograph, which appeared in the local newspaper,
showed the target talking to a policeman. The photograph and an accompanying
article were sent to BPP headquarters in Oakland, California, with a handwritten note,
supposedly from a female BPP member known to be "disenchanted"
with the target, saying, "I think this is two pigs oinking." 200
Although Bureau witnesses stated that they did not authorize a "snitch jacket"
when they had information that the group was at that time actually
killing suspected informants, 201 they admitted that the risk was there
whenever the technique was used.
It would be fair to say there was an element of risk there which we tried to
examine on a case by case basis. 202
Moore added, "I am not aware of any time we ever labeled anybody as an
informant, that anything [violent] ever happened as a result, and that is something
that could be measured." When asked whether that was luck or lack
of planning, he responded, "Oh, it just happened that way, I am sure." 203
C. Using Hostile Third Parties Against Target Groups
The Bureau's factionalism efforts were intended to separate individuals or groups
which might otherwise be allies. Another set of actions is a variant of that technique;
organizations already opposed to the target groups were used to attack them.
The American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, for example, printed and
distributed under their own names Bureau-authored pamphlets condemning the SDS
and the DuBois Clubs.
In another case, a confidential source, who headed an anti-Communist organization
in Cleveland, and who published a, "self-described conservative weekly newspaper," the
Cleveland Times, was anonymously mailed information on the Unitarian Society of
Cleveland's sponsorship of efforts to abolish the House Committee on Un-American
Activities. The source had "embarrassed" the Unitarian minister with questions about
the alleged Communist connections of other cosponsors "at public meetings." 204
It was anticipated that the source would publish a critical article in her newspaper,
which "may very well have the result of alerting the more responsible people in
the community" to the nature of the movement and "stifle it before it gets started." 205
The source newspaper did publish air article entitled "Locals to Aid Red Line,"
which named the Minister, among others, as a local sponsor of what it termed a
"Communist dominated plot" to abolish the House Committee. 206
One group, described as a "militant anticommunist right wing organization, more
of an activist group than is the more well known John Birch Society," was used on at
least four separate occasions. The Bureau developed a long-range program to use the
organization in "counterintelligence activity" by establishing a fictitious
person named "Lester Johnson" who sent letters, made phone calls, offered
financial support, and suggested action:
In view of the activist nature of this organization, and their lack of experience and
knowledge concerning the interior workings of the [local] CP, [the field office proposes]
that efforts be made to take over their activities and use them in such a manner
as would be best calculated by this office to completely disrupt and neutralize
the [local] CP, all without [the organization]becoming aware of the Bureau's interest
in its operation. 207
"Lester Johnson" used the organization to distribute fliers and letters opposing the
candidacy of a lawyer running for a judgeship 208 and to disrupt a dinner at which an
alleged Communist was to speak. 209 "Johnson" also congratulated the organization
on disrupting an antidraft meeting at a, Methodist Church, furnishing
further information about a speaker at the meeting 210 and suggested that
members picket the home of a local "communist functionary." 211
Another case is slightly different from the usual "hostile third party" actions, in
that both organizations were Bureau targets. "Operation Hoodwink" was intended to be a
long-range program to disrupt both La Cosa Nostra (which was not otherwise a COINTELPRO
target) and the Communist Party by "having them expend their energies attacking
each other." The initial project was to prepare and send a leaflet, which purported
to be from a Communist Party leader to a member of a New York "family"
attacking working conditions at a business owned by the family member. 212
D. Disseminating Derogatory Information to Family, Friends, and Associates
Although this technique was used in relatively few cases it accounts for some of
the most distressing of all COINTELPRO actions. Personal life information, some of which
was gathered expressly to be used in the programs, was then disseminated, either
directly to the target's family through an anonymous letter or telephone call,
or indirectly, by giving the information to the media.
Several letters were sent to spouses; three examples follow. 213 The names have
been deleted for privacy reasons.
The first letter was sent to the wife of a Grand Dragon of the United Klans of
America ("Mrs. A"). It was to be "typed on plain paper in an amateurish fashion." 214
"My Dear Mrs. (A),
"I write this letter to you only after a long period of praying to God. I must cleanse
my soul of these thoughts. I certainly do not want to create problems inside a faintly
but I owe a duty to the klans and its principles as well as to my own menfolk who have
cast their divine lot with the klans.
"Your husband came to [deleted] about a year ago and my menfolk blindly followed
his leadership, believing him to be the savior of this country. They never believed the
"stories that he stole money from the klans in [deleted] or that he is now making over
$25,000 a year. They never believed the stories that your house in [deleted] has a new
refrigerator, washer, dryer and yet one year ago, was threadbare. They refuse to believe
that your husband now owns three cars and a truck, including the new white car. But
I believe all these things and I can forgive them for a man wants to do for his family in
the best way he can.
"I don't have any of these things and I don't grudge you any of them neither. But
your husband has been committing the greatest of the sins of our Lord for many years.
He has taken the flesh of another unto himself.
"Yes, Mrs. A, he has been committing adultery. My menfolk say they don't believe
this but I think they do. I feel like crying. I saw her with my own eyes. They call her
Ruby. Her last name is something like [deleted] and she lives in the 700 block of [deleted]
Street in [deleted.] I know this. I saw her strut around at a rally with her lustfilled eyes
and smart aleck figure.
"I cannot stand for this. I will not let my husband and two brothers stand side by
side with your husband and this woman in the glorious robes of the klan. I am typing this
because I am going to send copys to Mr. Shelton and some of the klans leaders that I have
faith in. I will not stop until your husband is driven from [deleted] and back into the
flesh-pots from wherein he came.
"I am a loyal klanswoman and a good churchgoer. I feel this problem affects the future
of our great country. I hope I do not cause you harm by this and if you believe in the
Good Book as I do, you may soon receive your husband back into the fold. I pray for you
and your beautiful little children and only wish I could tell you who I am. I will soon, but
I am afraid my own men would be harmed if I do."
"A God-fearing klanswoman"
The second letter was sent to the husband ("Mr. B") of a woman who had the distinction
of being both a New Left and Black Nationalist target; she was a leader in the local
branch of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, "which group is
active in draft resistance, antiwar rallies and New Left activities," and an officer in ACTION,
a biracial group which broke off from the local chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality
and which "engaged in numerous acts of civil disruption and disobedience." 215
Two informants reported that Mr. B had been making suspicious inquiries about his
wife's relationship with the Black males in ACTION. The local field office proposed an
anonymous letter to the husband which would confirm his suspicions, although the
informants did not know whether the allegations of misconduct were true. It was hoped
that the "resulting marital tempest" would "result in ACTION losing their [officer] and
the WILPF losing a valuable leader, thus striking a major blow against both organizations."
Accordingly, the following letter, 216a written in black ink, was sent to the husband:
A letter from the field office to headquarters four months later reported as a "tangible
result" of the letter that the target and her husband had recently separated, following
a series of marital arguments:
This matrimonial stress and strain should cause her to function much less effectively
in ACTION. While the letter sent by the [field office] was probably not the sole cause of this
separation, it certainly contributed very strongly. 217
The third letter was sent to the wife of a leader of the Black Liberators ("Mrs. C"). She
was living in their home town with their two daughters while he worked in the city.
Bureau documents describe Mrs. C. as a "faithful, loving wife, who is apparently convinced
that her husband is performing a vital service to the Black world. . . . She is to all
indications an intelligent, respectable young mother, who is active in the AME
Methodist Church." 218
The letter was "prepared from a penmanship, spelling style to imitate that of the average
Black Liberator member. It contains several accusations which should cause [X's] wife great
concern." It was expressly intended to produce "ill feeling and possibly a lasting distrust"
between X and his wife; it was hoped that the "concern over what to do about it" would
"detract from his time spent in the plots and plans of his organization." 219
The letter was addressed to "Sister C":
The Petersen Committee said that some COINTELPRO actions were "abhorrent in a
free society." This technique surely falls within that condemnation. 220
E. Contacts with Employers
The Bureau often tried to get targets fired, with some success. 221 If the target was
a teacher, the intent was usually to deprive him of a forum and to remove what the Bureau
believed to be the added prestige given a political cause by educators. In other employer
contacts, the purpose was either to eliminate a source of funds for the individual or
(if the target was a donor) the group, or to have the employer apply pressure on the target
to stop his activities.
For example, an Episcopal minister furnished "financial and other" assistance to the
Black Panther Party in his city. The Bureau sent an anonymous letter to his bishop so that
the church would exert pressure on the minister to "refrain from assistance to the Black
Panther Party." 222 Similarly, a priest who allowed the Black Panther Party to use his
church for its breakfast program was targeted; his bishop received both an anonymous
letter and three anonymous phone calls. The priest was transferred shortly thereafter. 223
In another case, a black county employee was targeted because he had attended a fund
raiser for the Mississippi Summer Project and, on another occasion, a presentation of
a Negro History Week program. Both functions had been supported by "clandestine
CP members." The employee, according to the documents, had no record of subversive
activities; "he and his wife appear to be genuinely interested in the welfare of Negroes
and other minority groups and are being taken in by the communists." The Bureau chose
a curiously indirect way to inform the target of his friends' Party membership; a local law
enforcement official was used to contact the County Administrator in the expectation
that the employee would be "called in and questioned about his left-wing associates." 224
The Bureau made several attempts to stop outside sources from funding target
operations. 225 For example, the Bureau learned that SNCC was trying to obtain funds
from the Episcopal Church for a "liberation school." Two carefully spaced letters were
sent to the Church which falsely alleged that SNCC was engaged in a "fraudulent scheme"
involving the anticipated funds. The letters purported to be from local businessmen
approached by SNCC to place fictitious orders for school supplies and divide the money
when the Church paid the bills. 226 Similar letters were sent to the Interreligious
Foundation for Community Organizing, from which SNCC had requested a grant for
its "Agrarian Reform Plan." This time, the letters alleged kickback approaches in the sale
of farm equipment and real estate. 227
Other targets include an employee of the Urban League, who was fired because the
Bureau contacted a confidential source in a foundation which funded the League; 228
a lawyer known for his representation of "subversives," whose nonmovement client
received an anonymous letter advising it not to employ a "well-known Communist Party
apologist"; 229 and a television commentator who was transferred after his station and
superiors received an anonymous protest letter. The commentator, who had a weekly
religious program, had expressed admiration for a black nationalist leader and criticized
the United States' defense policy. 230
F. Use and Abuse of Government Processes
This category, which comprises 9 percent of all approved proposals includes selective
law enforcement (using Federal, state, or local authorities to arrest, audit, raid, inspect, deport,
etc.) ; interference with judicial proceedings, including targeting lawyers who represent
"subversives"; interference with candidates or political appointees; and using politicians
and investigating committees, sometimes without their knowledge, to take action against targets.
1. Selective Law Enforcement
Bureau documents often state that notifying law enforcement agencies of violations
committed by COINTELPRO targets is not counterintelligence, but part of normal Bureau
responsibility. Other documents, however, make it clear that "counterintelligence" was
precisely the purpose. "Be alert to have them arrested," reads a New Left COINTELPRO
directive to all participating field offices. 231 Further, there is clearly a difference between
notifying other agencies of information that the Bureau happened across in an
investigation -- in plain view, so to speak -- and instructing field offices to find evidence of
violations -- any violations -- to "get" a target. As George Moore stated:
Ordinarily, we would not be interested in health violations because it is not my jurisdiction,
we would not waste our time. But under this program, we would tell our informants
perhaps to be alert to any health violations or other licensing requirements or things of that
nature, whether there were violations and we would see that they were reported. 232
State and local agencies were frequently informed of alleged statutory violations which
would come within their jurisdiction. 233 As noted above, this was not always normal
A typical example of the attempted use, of local authorities to disrupt targeted activities
is the Bureau's attempt to have a Democratic Party fund raiser raided by the state Alcoholic
Beverage Control Commission. 234 The function was to be held at a private house: the
admission charge included "refreshments." It was anticipated that alcoholic beverages
would be served. A confidential source in the ABC Commission agreed to send an
agent to the fund raiser to determine if liquor was being served and then to conduct a
raid. 235 (In fact, the raid was cancelled for reasons beyond the Bureau's control. A
prior raid on the local fire department's fund raiser had given rise to considerable criticism
and the District Attorney issued an advisory opinion that such affairs did not violate
state law. The confidential source advised the field office that the ABC
would not, after all, raid the Democrats because of "political ramifications.") 236
In the second case, the target was a "key figure" Communist. He had a history of
homosexuality and was known to frequent a local hotel. The Bureau requested that the
local police have him arrested for homosexuality; it was then intended to publicize the
arrest to "embarrass the Party." Interestingly, the Bureau withdrew its request when
the target stopped working actively for the Party because it would no longer cause
the intended disruption. 237 This would appear to rebut the Bureau's contention that
turning over evidence of violations to local authorities was not really COINTELPRO
at all, but just part of its job.
2. Interference With Judicial Process
The Bureau's attempts to interfere with judicial processes affecting targets are
particularly disturbing because they violate a fundamental principle of our system of
government. Justice is supposed to be blind. Nevertheless, when a target appeared before
a judge, a jury, or a probation board, he sometimes carried an unknown burden; the Bureau
had gotten there first.
Three examples should be sufficient. A university student who was a leader of the Afro
American Action Committee had been arrested in a demonstration at the university. The
Bureau sent an anonymous letter to the county prosecutor intended to discredit her
by exposing her "subversive connections"; her adoptive father was described as a
Communist Party member. The Bureau believed that the letter might aid the prosecutor
in his case against the student. Another anonymous letter containing the same information
was mailed to a local radio announcer who had an "open mike" program critical of
local "leftist" activity. The letter was intended to further publicize the "connection"
between the student and the Communist Party. 239
In the second example, a Klan leader who had been convicted on a weapons charge was
out on bail pending appeal. He spoke at a Klan rally, and the Bureau arranged to
have newsmen present. The resulting stories and photographs were then delivered
to the appellate judges considering his case. 240
The third instance involved a real estate speculator's bequest of over a million dollars
to the three representatives of the Communist Party who were expected to turn it over to
the Party. The Bureau interviewed the probate judge sitting on the case, who was "very
cooperative" and promised to look the case over carefully. The judge asked the
Bureau to determine whether the widow would be willing to "take any action designed
to keep the Communist Party from getting the money." The Bureau's efforts to gain
the widow's help in contesting the will proved unsuccessful. 241
3. Candidates and Political Appointees
The Bureau apparently did not trust the American people, to make the proper choices
in the voting booth. Candidates who, in the Bureau's opinion, should not be elected were
therefore targeted. The case of the Democratic fundraiser discussed earlier was just one example.
Socialist Workers Party candidates were routinely selected for counterintelligence,
although they had never come close to winning an election. In one case, a SWP
candidate for state office inadvertently protected herself from action by announcing at a
news conference that she had no objections to premarital sex; a field office thereupon
withdrew its previously approved proposal to publicize her common law marriage. 241a
Other candidates were also targeted. A Midwest lawyer whose firm represented "subversives"
(defendants in the Smith Act trials) ran for City Council. The lawyer had been active
in the civil rights movement in the South, and the John Birch Society in his city had
recently mailed a book called "It's Very Simple -- The True Story of Civil Rights" to
various ministers, priests, and rabbis. The Bureau received a copy of the mailing list
from a source in the Birch Society and sent an anonymous follow-up letter to the book's
recipients noting the pages on which the candidate had been mentioned and calling
their attention to the "Communist background" of this "charlatan." 242 The Bureau also
sent a fictitious-name letter to a television station on which the candidate was to appear,
enclosing a series of informative questions it believed should be asked. 243 The candidate
was defeated. He subsequently ran (successfully, as it happened) for a judgeship.
Political appointees were also targeted. One target was a member of the board of the
NAACP and the Democratic State Central Committee. His brother, according to
the documents, was a communist, and the target had participated in some Party youth
group activities fifteen years earlier. The target's appointment as secretary of a
city transportation board elicited an anonymous letter to the Mayor, with carbons to two
newspapers, protesting the use of "us taxpayers' money" in the appointment of a "known
Communist" to a highly paid job; more anonymous letters to various politicians, the
American Legion, and the county prosecutor in the same vein; and a pseudonymous letter
to the members of the transportation board, stating that the Mayor had "saddled them
with a Commie secretary because he thinks it will get him a few Negro votes. 244
4. Investigating Committees
State and Federal legislative investigating committees were occasionally used to attack
a target, since the committees' interests usually marched with the Bureau's.
Perhaps the most elaborate use of an investigating committee was the framing of a
complicated "snitch jacket." In October 1959, a legislative committee held
hearings in Philadelphia, "ostensibly" to show a resurgence of CP activity in the area. 245
The Bureau's target was subpoenaed to appear before the committee but was not
actually called to testify. The field office proposed that local CP leaders be contacted to
raise the question of "how it was possible for [the target] to escape testifying" before the
committee; this "might place suspicion on him as being cooperative" with the
investigators and "raise sufficient doubt in the minds of the leaders regarding [the
target] to force him out of the CP or at least to isolate and neutralize him." Strangely
enough, the target was not a bona fide CP member; he was an undercover infiltrator
for a private anti-Communist group who had been a source of trouble for the FBI
because he kept getting in their way.
A more typical example of the use of a legislative committee is a series of anonymous
letters sent to the chairman of a state investigating committee that was designated to
look into New Left activities on the state's college campuses. The target was an activist
professor, and the letters detailed his "subversive background."
G. Exposing "Communist Infiltration" of Groups
This technique was used in approximately 4 percent of all approved proposals. The most
common method involved anonymously notifying the group (civil rights organization, PTA,
Boy Scouts, etc.) that one or more of its members was a "Communist," 246 so that it
could take whatever action it deemed appropriate. Occasionally, however, the group
itself was the COINTELPRO target. In those cases, the information went to the media, and
the intent was to link the group to the Communist Party.
For example, one target was a Western professor who was the immediate past president
of a local peace center, "a coalition of anti-Vietnam and antidraft groups." He had
resigned to become chairman of the state's McCarthy campaign organization,
but it was anticipated that he would return to the peace center after the election. According
to the documents, the professor's wife had been a Communist Party member in the early
1950s. This information was furnished to a newspaper editor who had written an
editorial branding the SDS and various black power groups as "professional revolutionists."
The information was intended to "expose these people at this time when they are
receiving considerable publicity to not only educate the public to their character,
but disrupt the members" of the peace organization. 247
In another case, the Bureau learned through electronic surveillance of a civil rights leader's
plans to attend a reception at the Soviet Mission to the United Nations. (The reception
was to honor a Soviet author.) The civil rights leader was active in a school boycott which
had been previously targeted; the Bureau arranged to have news photographers at the
scene to photograph him entering the Soviet Mission. 248
Other instances include furnishing information to the media on the participation of the
Communist Party Presidential candidate in a United Farm Workers' picket line: 249 "confidentially"
telling established sources of three Northern California newspapers that the San
Francisco County CP Committee had stated that the Bay area civil rights groups would
"begin working" on the area's large newspapers "in an effort to secure greater employment
of Negroes;" 250 and furnishing information on Socialist Workers Party participation
in the Spring Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam to "discredit" the
antiwar group by tying it "into the subversive movement." 251
V. COMMAND AND CONTROL: THE PROBLEM OF OVERSIGHT
A. Within the, Bureau
1. Internal Administration
The Bureau attempted to exercise stringent internal controls over COINTELPRO. All
counterintelligence proposals had to be approved by headquarters. Every originating
COINTELPRO document contains a strong warning to the field that "no counterintelligence
action may be initiated by the field without specific Bureau authorization." The field would
send a proposal under the COINTELPRO caption to the Seat of Government -- the Bureau
term for headquarters -- where it would be routed to the Section Chief of the section
handling the particular COINTELPRO program. 252
The recommendation would then be attached to the proposal, beginning the process of
administrative review. The lowest level on which a proposal could be approved was the
Assistant Director, Domestic Intelligence Division, to whom the Section Chief reported
via the Branch Chief. More often, the proposal would go through the Assistant
to the Director and often to the Director himself.
The Counterintelligence programs were coordinated with the rest of the section's work
primarily through informal contacts, but also through section meetings and the Section
Chief's knowledge of the work of his entire section. Further, although the initial COINTELPRO
was an effort to centralize what had been an ad hoc series of field actions, the programs
continued to be essentially field-oriented with little target selection by headquarters.
However, the Section Chief would attempt to make sure targets were being effectively
chosen by occasionally sending out directives to field offices to intensify the investigation
of a particular individual or group and to consider the subject for counterintelligence action."
Participating field offices were required to send in status letters (usually every ninety days)
reporting any tangible results. They were instructed to resolve any doubts as to whether a
counterintelligence action caused the observed result in their favor. Nevertheless, results
were reported in only 527 cases, or 22 percent, of the approved actions. When a
"good" result was reported, the field office, or agent involved frequently received a letter of
commendation or incentive award. 254
4. Blurred Distinction Between Counterintelligence and Investigation
It is possible that some actions did not receive headquarters scrutiny simply because the
field offices were never told precisely what "counterintelligence" was. Although Bureau
procedures strictly required COINTELPRO proposals to be approved at headquarters
and a control file to be maintained both in the field and at headquarters, the field offices
had no way to determine with any certainty just what was counterintelligence and what
was investigation. Many of the techniques overlap: contacts with employers, contacts with
family members, contacts with local law enforcement, even straight interviewing,
are all investigative techniques which were used in COINTELPRO actions. 255 More
importantly, actions in the Rev. Martin Luther King case which cannot, by any
stretch of the language, be called "investigative" were not called COINTELPRO,
but were carried under the investigative caption. 256
The Bureau witnesses agree that COINTELPRO has no fixed definition, and that there is a
large grey area between what is counterintelligence and what is aggressive investigation.
As the Black Nationalist supervisor put it, "Basically actions taken to neutralize an
individual or disrupt an organization would be COINTELPRO; actions which were
primarily investigative would have been handled by the investigative desks," even though
the investigative action had disruptive effects. 256a Aggressive investigation continues,
and in many cases may be as disruptive as COINTELPRO, because in an investigation
the Bureau can and does reveal its interest. An anonymous letter (COINTELPRO)
can be discarded as the work of a crank; but if the local FBI agent says the subject
of an investigation is a subversive an employer or family member pays attention.
The Inspection Division attempted to ensure that standard procedures were being followed.
The Inspectors focused on two things: field office participation, and the mechanics of
headquarters approval. However, the Inspection Division did not exercise oversight in the
sense of looking for wrongdoing. Rather, it was an active participant in COINTELPRO
by attempting to make sure that it was being efficiently and enthusiastically conducted. 257
As the Assistant Director then in charge of the Inspection Division testified, the "propriety"
of COINTELPRO was not investigated. He agreed that his job was to "determine
whether the program was being pursued effectively as opposed to whether it was proper,"
and added, "There was no instruction to me, nor do I believe there is any instruction in the
Inspector's manual that the Inspector should be on the alert to see that constitutional
values are being protected." 258
B. Outside the Bureau: 1956-1971
There is no clear answer to the question whether anyone outside the Bureau knew about
COINTELPRO. One of the hallmarks of C01NTELPRO was its secrecy. No
one outside the Bureau was to know it existed. 259 A characteristic instruction
appeared in the Black Nationalist originating letter:
You are also cautioned that the nature of this new endeavor is such that under no
circumstances should the existence of the program be made known outside the Bureau
and appropriate within-office security should be afforded to sensitive operations and
techniques considered under the program. 260
Thus, for example, anonymous letters had to be written on commercially purchased
stationery; newsmen had to be so completely trustworthy that they were guaranteed not
to reveal the Bureau's interest; and inquiries of law enforcement officials had to
be under investigative pretext. In approving or denying any proposal, the primary
consideration was preventing "embarrassment to the Bureau." Embarrassment
is a term of art. It means both public relations embarrassment -- criticism -- and any
revelation of the Bureau's investigative interest to the subject, which may then be
expected to take countermeasures. 261
This secrecy has an obvious impact on the oversight process. There is some question
whether anyone with oversight responsibility outside the Bureau was informed of
COINTELPRO. In response to the Committee's request, the Bureau has assembled all
documents available in its files which indicate that members of the executive and
legislative branches were so informed. 262
1. Executive Branch
On May 8, 1958, Director Hoover sent two letters, one to the Honorable Robert Cutler,
Special Assistant to President Eisenhower, and the other to Attorney General William
Rogers, containing the same information. The Attorney General's letter is captioned
"COMMUNIST PARTY, USA-INTERNAL SECURITY." The letters are fairly
explicit notification of the CPUSA COINTELPRO:
In August of 1956, this Bureau initiated a program designed to promote disruption
within the ranks of the Communist Party (CP) USA ... Several techniques have been
utilized to accomplish our objectives. 263
The letters go on to detail use of informants to engage in controversial discussions, after
which "acrimonious debates ensued, suspicions were aroused, and jealousies fomented";
and anonymous mailings of anti-communist material, both reprinted and Bureau-prepared,
to active CP members. 264 (Two examples of the Bureau's product were enclosed.)
"Tangible accomplishments" achieved by the program were "disillusionment and defection
among Party members and increased factionalism at all levels." 265 However, the
only techniques disclosed were use of informants and anonymous propaganda mailings.
There is no record of any reply to these letters.
On January 10, 1961, letters from the Director were sent to Dean Rusk, Robert Kennedy,
and Byron R. White, who were about to take office as Secretary of State, Attorney General,
and Deputy Attorney General, respectively. The letters enclosed a top secret summary
memorandum setting forth the overall activities of the Communist Party, USA, and stated,
"Our responsibilities in the internal security field and our counterattack against the CPUSA
are also set out in this memorandum." 266
The five-page memorandum contains one section entitled "FBI Counterattack."
This section details penetration of the Party at all levels with
security informants; use of various techniques to keep the Party off-
balance and disillusioned; infiltration by informants; intensive investigation of
Party members; and prosecution. Only one paragraph of that report appears
at all related to the Bureau's claim that the CPUSA COINTELPRO
As an adjunct to our regular investigative operations, we carry on a carefully
planned program of counterattack against the CPUSA which keeps it
off balance. Our primary purpose in this program is to bring about
disillusionment on the part of individual members which is carried on from both
inside and outside the Party organization. [Sentence on use of informants
to disrupt excised for security reasons.]
In certain instances we have been successful in preventing communists from
seizing control of legitimate mass organizations and have discredited
others who were secretly operating inside such organizations. For example, during
1959 we were able to prevent the CPUSA from seizing control of the
20,000-member branch of the National Association for the Advancement
of Colored People in Chicago, Illinois. 267
The only techniques disclosed were use of informants and COMINFIL exposure.
There is no record of any replies to these letters.
On September 2, 1965, letters were sent to the Honorable Marvin Watson,
Special Assistant to President Johnson and Attorney General Katzenbach (whose
letter was captioned "PENETRATION AND DISRUPTION OF KLAN
ORGANIZATIONS-RACIAL MATTERS"). These two-page letters refer to the
Bureau's success in solving a number of cases involving racial violence
in the South. They then detail the development of a large number of
informants and the value of the information received from them.
One paragraph deals with "disruption":
We also are seizing every opportunity to disrupt the activities of Klan
organizations. Typical is the manner in which we exposed and thwarted a "kick
back" scheme a Klan group was using in one southern state to help
finance its activities. One member of the group was selling insurance to other Klan
members and would deposit a generous portion of the premium refunds
in the Klan treasury. As a result of action we took, the insurance
company learned of the scheme and cancelled all the policies held by Klan
members, thereby cutting on a sizable source of revenue which had been used to
finance Klan activities. 268
Notifying an insurance company of a kick back scheme involving its premiums is
not a "typical" COINTELPRO technique. It falls within that grey area between
counterintelligence and ordinary Bureau responsibilities. Nevertheless, the
statement that the Bureau is "seizing every opportunity to disrupt the activities of
Klan organizations" is considered by the Bureau to be notification of the White
Hate COINTELPRO, even though it does not distinguish between the
inevitable and sometimes proper disruption of intensive investigation and
the intended disruption of covert action.
On September 3,1965, Mr. Katzenbach replied to the Director's letter with a two-
paragraph memorandum captioned "Re: Your memorandum of September 2,
regarding penetration and disruption of Klan organizations." The body of
the memorandum makes no reference to disruption, but praises the
accomplishments of the Bureau in the area of Klan penetration and congratulates
Director Hoover on the development of his informant system and the results
obtained through it. The letter concludes:
It is unfortunate that the value of these activities would in most cases be lost if
too extensive publicity were given to them; however, perhaps at some point
it may be possible to place these achievements on the public record, so that the
Bureau can receive its due credit. 269
The Bureau interpreted this letter as approval and praise of its White Hate
COINTELPRO. Mr. Katzenbach has said that he has no memory of this document,
nor of the response. He testified that during his term in the
Department he had never heard the terms "COINTEL" or COINTELPRO, and that
while he was familiar with the Klan investigation, he was not aware of any
improper activities such as letters to Wives. 270 Mr. Katzenbach added:
It never occurred to me that the Bureau would engage in the sort of sustained
improper activity which it apparently did. Moreover, given these
excesses, I am not surprised that I and others were unaware of them. Would it have
made sense for the FBI to seek approval for activities of this nature --
especially from Attorneys General who did not share Mr. Hoover's political views,
who would not have been in sympathy with the purpose of these
attacks, and who would not have condoned the methods? 271
The files do not reveal any response from Mr. Watson.
On December 19, 1967, Director Hoover sent a letter to Attorney General
Ramsey Clark, with a copy to Deputy Attorney General Warren Christopher,
captioned "KU KLUX KLAN INVESTIGATIONS -- FBI ACCOMPLISHMENTS"
and attaching a ten-page memorandum with the same caption and a list
of statements and publications regarding the Ku Klux Klan "and the FBI's role
in investigating Klan matters." The memorandum was prepared "pursuant to your
conversation with Cartha DeLoach of this Bureau concerning FBI coverage and
penetration of the Ku Klux Klan." 272
The memo is divided into eleven sections: Background, Present Status, FBI
Responsibility, Major Cases, Informants, Special Projects, Liaison With Local
Authorities, Klan Infiltration of Law Enforcement, Acquisition of Weapons
and Dynamite of the Ku Klux Klan, Interviews of Klansmen, and
The first statement in the memorandum which might conceivably relate to the
White Hate COINTELPRO appears under the heading "FBI Responsibility":
. . . We conduct intelligence investigations with the view toward infiltrating the
Ku Klux Klan with informants, neutralizing it as a terrorist organization,
and deterring violence. 273
The Bureau considers the word "neutralize" to be a COINTELPRO key word.
Some specific activities which were carried out within the Bureau under the
COINTELPRO caption are then detailed under the heading "Special Projects." The
use of Bureau informants to effect the removal of Klan officers is set forth
under the subheadings "Florida," "Mississippi," and "Louisiana." More
significantly, the "Florida" paragraph includes the statement that, "We
have found that by the removal of top Klan officers and provoking
scandal within the state Klan organization through our informants, the Klan in a
particular area can be rendered ineffective." 274 This sentence, although
somewhat buried should, if focused upon, have alerted the recipients to actions
going beyond normal investigative activity. Other references are more vague,
referring only to "containing the growth" or "controlling the expansion" of state
Klans. 275 There is no record of any reply to this letter, which Clark does
not remember receiving:
Did [these phrases in the letter] put me on notice? No. Why? I either did not
read them, or if I did read them, didn't read them carefully.... I think I
read this. I think perhaps I had asked for it for someone else, and
it on to them or never saw it. 276
He added, "I think that any disruptive activities, such as those you reveal,
regarding the COINTEL program and the Ku Klux Klan should be absolutely
prohibited and subjected to criminal prosecution." 277
Finally, on September 17,1969, a letter was sent to Attorney General Mitchell,
with copies to the Deputy Attorney General and the Assistant
Attorneys General of the Criminal Division, Internal Security Division, and
Civil Division, captioned "INVESTIGATION OF KLAN
ORGANIZATIONS-RACIAL MATTERS (KLAN)," which informs the
recipients of the "significant progress we have recently made in our investigation of
the Ku Klux Klan." The one page letter states that, "during the last several
months, 278 while various national and state leaders of the United Klan of
America remain in prison, we have attempted to negate the activities of the
temporary leaders of the Ku Klux Klan." 279
The only example given is the "careful use and instruction of selected racial
informants" to "initiate a split within the United Klans of America." This split was
evidenced by a Klan rally during which "approximately 150 Klan
membership cards were tacked to a cross and burned to signify this breach." 280
The letter concludes, "We will continue to give full attention to our
responsibilities in an effort to accomplish the maximum possible neutralization of
the Klan." 281 There is no record of any replies to these letters.
While the only documentary evidence that members of the executive branch were
informed of the existence of any COINTELPRO has been set forth above, the
COINTELPRO unit chief stated that he was certain that Director Hoover orally briefed
every Attorney General and President, since he wrote "squibs" for the Director to use
in such briefings. He could not, however, remember the dates or subject matter of the
briefings, and the Bureau was unable to produce any such "squibs" (which would
not, in any case, have been routinely saved). Cartha DeLoach, former Assistant to the
Director, testified that he "distinctly" recalled briefing Attorney General Clark, "generally ...
concerning COINTELPRO. 282 Clark denied that DeLoach's testimony was either true
or accurate, adding "I do not believe that he briefed me on anything even, as he says,
generally concerning COINTELPRO, whatever that means." 283 The Bureau has failed
to produce any memoranda of such oral briefings, although it was the habit of both
Director Hoover and DeLoach to write memoranda for the files in such situations. 284
2. The Cabinet
The Bureau has furnished the Committee a portion of a briefing paper prepared
for Director Hoover for his briefing of the Cabinet, presided over by
President Eisenhower, dated November 6, 1958. There is no transcript of
the actual briefing. The briefing as a whole apparently dealt with, among other
things, seven programs which are "part of our overall counterintelligence
operations" and which are "specific answers to specific problems which have arisen
within our investigative jurisdiction." Six of the programs apparently
related to espionage. The seventh deals with the CPUSA:
To counteract a resurgence of Communist Party influence in the United States,
we have a seventh program designed to intensify any confusion and
dissatisfaction among its members. During the past few years, this program
has been most effective. Selective informants were briefed and trained
to raise controversial issues within the Party. In the process, many were able to
advance themselves to higher positions. The Internal Revenue Service was
furnished the names and addresses of Party functionaries who had been
active in the underground apparatus. Based on this information,
investigations were instituted in 262 possible income tax evasion cases.
Anticommunist literature and simulated Party documents were mailed anonymously
to carefully chosen members. 285
This statement, although concise, would appear to be a fairly explicit notification
of the existence of the CPUSA COINTELPRO. There are no documents
reflecting any response.
3. Legislative Branch
The Bureau has furnished excerpts from briefing papers prepared for the Director
in his annual appearances before the House Appropriations Subcommittee.
During the hearings pertaining to fiscal years 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961,
1963, 1966, and 1967, 286 these briefing papers were given to the
Director to be used in top secret, off-the-record testimony relating to the
CPUSA and White Hate COINTELPROs. No transcripts are available of
the actual briefings, and it is, therefore, not possible to determine whether
the briefing papers were used at all, or, conversely, whether the
Director went beyond them to give additional information. Additionally, portions of
the briefing papers are underlined by hand and portions have been crossed
out, also by hand. Some sections are both underlined and crossed out.
The Bureau has not been able to explain the meaning of the underlining or
cross marks. However, if the briefing papers were used as written, the
Subcommittee was informed of the existence of the CPUSA and Klan COINTELPROs.
The FY 1958 briefing paper is in outline form. Under the, heading "auxiliary
measures directed against Communist Party-USA" is a paragraph
entitled "FBI counterintelligence program to exploit Party 'split':"
The Bureau also recently inaugurated a newly devised counterintelligence
program which is designed to capitalize upon the "split" presently existing in the
leadership of the Communist Party-USA. Among other objectives, efforts
are being made by the Bureau, through informants and other techniques,
to keep these rifts open, and to otherwise weaken the party where possible to
do so in an anonymous manner. The Internal Revenue Service has been
given the names of 336 communist underground subjects, so that the agency may be
able to entertain prosecutions for filing of false income tax returns or other
violations within the jurisdiction of that Service.
The FY 1959 briefing paper on the CPUSA deals primarily with informant
penetration, but includes the statement that "to counteract [CPUSA] activities the
FBI for years has had a planned intensive program designed to infiltrate,
penetrate, disorganize, and disrupt the Communist Party, USA." 287
In covering informant activities, the paper includes the statement "they
[informants] have likewise worked to excellent advantage as a disruptive
tactic." 288 The one specific example cited has been deleted by the
Bureau because it tends to identify an informant.
The FY 1960 briefing paper is even more explicit. The pertinent section is
entitled "FBI's Anti-Communist Counterintelligence Program." It details use of
informants to engage in controversial discussions "to promote dissension,
factionalism and defections" which "have been extremely successful from a
disruptive standpoint." 289 One paragraph deals with propaganda mailings
"carefully concealing the identity of the FBI as its source"; 290 another paragraph
states that "Communist Party leaders are considerably concerned
over this anonymous dissemination of literature." 291
The FY 1961 briefing paper, again titled "FBI's Counterintelligence Program",
states that the program was devised "to promote dissension,
factionalism and defections within the communist cause." 292 The only technique
discussed (but at some length) is anonymous propaganda mailings.
The effectiveness of the technique, according to the paper, was proven from
the mouth of the enemy that the mailings "appear to be the greatest
danger to the Communist Party, USA." 293
The FY 1963 briefing paper, captioned "Counterintelligence Program," is
extraordinarily explicit. It reveals that:
Since August, 1956, we have augmented our regular investigative operations
against the Communist Party-USA with a "counterintelligence
program" which involves the application of disruptive techniques and psychological
warfare directed at discrediting and disrupting the operations of the Party, and
causing disillusionment and defections within the communist ranks. The
tangible results we are obtaining through these covert and extremely
sensitive operations speak for themselves. 294
The paper goes on to set forth such techniques as disrupting meetings, rallies, and
press conferences through causing the last-minute cancellation of the rental
of the hall, packing the audience with anticommunists, arranging adverse
publicity in the press, and giving friendly reporters "embarrassing questions"
for Communists they interviewed. The briefing paper also mentions
the use of newsmen to take photographs which show the close
relationship between the leaders of the CPUSA and officials of the Soviet Union,
using informants to sow discord and factionalism, exposing and discrediting
Communists in such "legitimate organizations" as the YMCA and
the Boy Scouts, and mailing anonymous propaganda. 295
The briefing paper for FY 1966 again refers to "counterintelligence action:" "We
have since 1956 carried on a sensitive program for the purpose of disrupting,
exposing, discrediting, and otherwise neutralizing the Communist Party-USA
and related organizations." 296 The paper cites two examples. The first is an
operation conducted against a Communist Party functionary who arrived in a
(deleted) city to conduct a secret two-week Party school for local youth. The
Bureau arranged for him to be greeted at the airport by local television
newsmen. The functionary lost his temper, pushing the reporter away and swinging
his briefcase at the cameraman, who was busily filming the entire
incident. The film was later televised nationally. The second technique is
described as "the most effective single blow ever dealt the organized communist
movement." The description has been deleted "as it tends to reveal
a highly sensitive technique." 297 The COINTELPRO unit chief also
stated that this one single action succeeded in causing a "radical decrease" in
CPUSA membership, but refused to tell the Committee staff what that action
was because it involved foreign counterintelligence. 298
The final briefing paper, for FY 1967, refers to the CPUSA program and its
expansion in 1964 to include "Klan and hate-type organizations and their
memberships." It continues, "counterintelligence action today is a valuable adjunct
to investigative responsibilities and the techniques used complement our
investigations. All information related to the targeted organizations, their leadership
and members, which is developed from a variety of sources, is carefully reviewed
for its potential for use under this program." 299
Examples cited are the Bureau's preparation of a leaflet on the W.E.B. DuBois
Clubs entitled "Target ... American Youth!" sponsored by the VFW;
alerting owners of meeting locations to their use by Communists; alerting the
Veterans Administration to a Klan member's full-time employment in order
to reduce his pension, and the IRS to the fact that he failed to file tax
returns; exposing the insurance kick back scheme also referred to in the 1965 letters
to Watson and Katzenbach; and increasing informant coverage by
duplicating a Klan business card given to prospective members. 300
C. Outside the Bureau: Post -- 1971.
In the fall of 1973, the Department of Justice released certain COINTELPRO
documents which had been requested by NBC reporter Carl
Stern in a Freedom of Information Act request following the Media,
Pennsylvania, break-in. In January 1974, Attorney General Saxbe asked Assistant
Attorney General Henry Petersen to form an intradepartmental committee to study COINTELPRO
and report back to him. 301 The committee was composed of both
Department attorneys and Bureau agents. The Department lawyers did not work directly
with Bureau documents; instead the Bureau prepared summaries of the documents
in the COINTELPRO control file, which did not include the identities
or affiliations of the targets, and the Department members were allowed to
do a sample comparison to verify the accuracy of the summaries.
A revised and shortened version of the report of the Petersen Committee was
made public in November 1974. The public report was prefaced by a statement
from Attorney General Saxbe which stated that while "in a small number of
instances, some of these programs involved what we consider today to be
improper activities," most of the activities "were legitimate." 301a The public
version did not examine the purposes or legality of the programs or the techniques,
although it did state some COINTELPRO activities involved
"isolated instances" of practices that "can only be considered abhorrent in a free
society." 302 The confidential report to Attorney General Saxbe examined
the legal issues at some length. It emphasized that many COINTELPRO
activities "were entirely proper and appropriate law enforcement procedures." 303
These included the following:
notifying other Government authorities of civil and criminal violations of group
members; interviewing such group members; disseminating public source
material on such individuals and groups to media representatives; encouraging
informants to argue against the use of violence by such groups; and issuing general
public comment on the activities, policies and objectives of such
groups through testimony at legislative hearings and in other formal reports. 304
On the other hand, the report concluded that many other COINTELPRO
activities designed to expose, disrupt, and neutralize domestic groups "exceeded the
Bureau's investigative authority and may be said to constitute an
unwarranted interference with First Amendment rights of free speech and
associations of the target individuals and organizations." 305
Department attorneys prepared two legal memoranda, one viewing
COINTELPRO as a conspiracy to deprive persons of First Amendment rights
under 18 U.S.C. 241, and the other rejecting that view. 306 The committee itself
reached the following conclusion:
While as a matter of pure legal theory it is arguable that these programs
resulted in Section 241 violations, it is the view of the committee that any decision
as to whether prosecution should be undertaken must also take into
account several other important factors which bear upon the events in
question. These factors are: first, the historical context in which the programs were
conceived and executed by the Bureau in response to public and even
Congressional demands for action to neutralize the self-proclaimed
revolutionary aims and violence prone activities of extremist groups which posed a
threat to the peace and tranquility of our cities in the mid and late sixties;
second, the fact that each of the COINTELPRO programs was personally approved
and supported by the late Director of the FBI; and third, the fact that
the interferences with First Amendment rights resulting from individual
implemented program actions were insubstantial. Under these
circumstances, it is the view of the committee that the opening of a criminal
investigation of these matters is not warranted. 307
The report also concluded that there were "substantial questions" as to the
liability of various former and present officials to civil suit "under tort theories of
defamation of interference with contract rights." 308
The Departmental committee's crucial conclusion was that the interferences with
First Amendment rights were "insubstantial." It appears to have reached
that conclusion by ignoring the declared goals of the programs: cutting
down group membership and preventing the "propagation" of a group's
philosophy. Further, the committee brushed over dangerous or degrading
techniques by breaking down the categories of actions into very small percentages,
and then concluded that, if only 1 percent of the actions involved
poison pen letters to spouses, then the activity was "insubstantial" as
compared to the entirety of COINTEL proposals, even though, as to the
individuals in that category, the invasion might be very substantial indeed.
Another weakness in the Petersen committee report is its characterization as
legitimate of such techniques as "leaking" public source material to the media,
interviewing group members, and notifying other government authorities of civil
and criminal violations. The term "public source material" is misleading,
since the FBI's files contain a large amount of so-called public
source data (such as arrest records, outdated or inaccurate news stories) which
should not be "leaked" outside the Bureau to discredit an individual. 309 Interviews
can be conducted in such an intrusive and persistent manner as to
constitute harassment. Minor technical law violations can be magnified
when uncovered and reported by the FBI to another agency for the purpose of
disruption rather than objective law enforcement. 310 Claims that a technique is
legitimate per se should not be accepted without examining the actual
purpose and effect of the activity.
Although the Petersen committee's report concluded that "the opening of a
criminal investigation of these matters is not warranted," 311 the Committee did
recommend broad changes in Bureau procedures. First, the report urged
that "a sharp distinction . . . be made between FBI activities in the area
of foreign counterintelligence and those in the domestic field." 312 The
committee proposed that the Attorney General issue a directive to the FBI:
prohibiting it from instituting any counterintelligence program such as
COINTELPRO without his prior knowledge and approval. Specifically, this
directive should make it unmistakably clear that no disruptive action should be
taken by the FBI in connection with its investigative responsibilities
involving domestic based organizations, except those which are sanctioned by rule
of law, procedure, or judicially recognized and accepted police practices,
and which are not in violation of state or federal law. The FBI should
also be charged that in any event where a proposed action may be
perceived, with reason, to unfairly affect the rights of citizens, it is the responsibility
of the FBI as an institution and of FBI agents as individuals to
seek legal advice from the Attorney General or his authorized representative. 313
Attorney General Saxbe did not issue such a directive, and the matter is still
pending before Attorney General Levi. 314
On April 1, 1976, Attorney General Levi announced the establishment of a
special review committee within the Department of Justice to notify COINTELPRO
victims that they were the subjects of FBI activities directed
against them. Notification will be made "in those instances where the
specific COINTELPRO activity was improper, actual harm may have
occurred, and the subjects are not already aware that they were the targets of
COINTELPRO activities." 315
The review committee has established guidelines for determining which
COINTELPRO activities were "improper," but it will be difficult to make that
determination without giving an official imprimatur to questionable activities which
do not meet the notification criteria. For example, there is little point in
notifying all recipients of anonymous reprint mailings that they received their
copy of a Reader's Digest article from the FBI, but the Department should
not suggest that the activity itself is a proper Bureau function. Other acts
which fall within the "grey area" between COINTELPRO and aggressive
investigation present similar problems. 316
Nevertheless, a Departmental notification program is an important step toward
redressing the wrongs done, and carries with it some additional
benefits. For the first time, Departmental attorneys will review the original files,
rather than relying on Bureau-prepared summaries. Further, the Department
will have acknowledged -- finally -- that COINTELPRO was wrong. Official
repudiation of the programs is long overdue.
The American people need to be assured that never again will an agency of the
government be permitted to conduct a secret war against those citizens it
considers threats to the established order. Only a combination of legislative
prohibition and Departmental control can guarantee that COINTELPRO
will not happen again. The notification program is an auspicious beginning.
1 On March 8,1971, the FBI resident agency in Media, Pennslyvania, was
broken into. Documents stolen in the break-in were widely circulated and published
by the press. Since some documents carried a "COINTELPRO" caption -- a
word unknown outside the Bureau -- Carl Stern, a reporter for NBC,
commenced a Freedom of information Act lawsuit to compel the Bureau to produce
other documents relating to the programs. The Bureau decided
because of "security reasons" to terminate them on April 27, 1971. (Memorandum
from C. D. Brennan to W. C. Sullivan, 4/27/71; Letter from
FBI headquarters to all SAC's, 4/28/71.)
2 The Bureau's direct attacks on speaking, teaching, writing, and meeting are
discussed at pp. 28-33, attempts to prevent the growth of groups are set forth at pp. 34-40.
2a For a discussion of U.S. intelligence activities against hostile foreign
intelligence operations, see Report on Counterintelligence.
3 See Senate Select Committee Report, "Alleged Assassination Plots Involving
Foreign Leaders" and Staff Report: "Covert Action in Chile."
3a Black Nationalist Supervisor deposition, 10/17/75,1), p. 12.
4 Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to all SAC's, 8/25/67, p. 2.
5 New Left Supervisor's deposition, 10/28/75, p. 8. The closest any Bureau
document comes to a definition is found in an investigative directive: "The term
'New Left' does not refer to a definite organization, but to a movement
which is providing ideologies or platforms alternate to those of
existing communist and other basic revolutionary organizations, the so-called 'Old
Left.' The New Left movement is a loosely-bound, free-wheeling,
college-oriented movement spearheaded by the Students for a Democratic Society
and includes the more extreme and militant anti-Vietnam war and anti-draft
protest organizations." (Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to all SAC's, 10/28/68;
Hearings, Vol. 6, Exhibit 61. p. 669.) Although this characterization
is longer than that of the New Left Supervisor, it does not
appear to be substantively different.
6 Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Cleveland Field Office, 11/6/64.
7 One civil rights leader, the subject of at least three separate counterintelligence
actions under the CPUSA caption, was targeted because there was no
"direct evidence" that he was a communist, "neither is there any
substantial evidence that he is anti-communist." One of the actions utilized
information gained from a wiretap; the other two involved dissemination
of personal life information. (Memorandum from J.A. Sizoo to
W.C. Sullivan, 2/4/64; Memorandum from New York Field Office to FBI
Headquarters, 2/12/64; Memoranda from FBI Headquarters to New York
Field Office, 3/26/64 and 4/10/64: Memorandum to New York Field
Office from FBI Headquarters, 4/21/64; Memorandum from FBI
Headquarters to Baltimore Field Office, 10/6/65.)
8 Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Cleveland Field Office, 11/29/68.
9 FBI Headquarters memorandum, 8/25/67, p. 2.
10 Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Jackson Field Office, 2/8/71, pp. 1-2.
11 Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to San Antonio Field Office, 10/31/68.
12 Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Detroit Field Office, 10/26/66.
13 Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Cincinnati Field Office, 6/18/68.
14 Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Albuquerque Field Office, 3/14/69.
15 Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to San Antonio Field Office. 7/23/69.
16 Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Pittsburgh Field Office, 11/14/69.
17 Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Minneapolis Field Office, 11/4/68.
17a COINTELPRO Unit Chief deposition, 10/16/75, p. 14.
17b Unit Chief deposition, 10/16/75, p.54.
18 "Possibly violent" did not necessarily mean likely to be violent. Concededly
non-violent groups were targeted because they might someday
change; Martin Luther King, Jr. was targeted because (among other
things) he might "abandon his supposed 'obedience' to 'white, liberal
doctrines' (non-violence) and embrace black nationalism." (Memorandum from
FBI Headquarters to all SAC's, 3/4/68, 1). 3.)
19 This attitude toward change is apparent in many of those Bureau activities
investigated by the Committee. It played a large part in the Martin
Luther King, Jr. case, which is the subject of a separate report.
20 FBI Headquarters memorandum, 11/4/68.
21 Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to San Francisco Field Office, 11/1/65.
22 Memorandum from Cartha DeLoach to John Mohr, 8/29/64, pp. 1-8.
23 William C. Sullivan testimony, 11/1/75, pp. 97-98.
24 A memorandum prepared for the Justice Department Committee which
studied COINTELPRO in 1974 stated that COINTELPRO activities "may" have
violated the Civil Rights statute, the mail and wire fraud statutes, and the
prohibition against divulging information gained from wiretaps.
(Memorandum to H. E. Petersen, 4/25/74.) Internal Bureau documents show that
Bureau officials believed sending threats through the mail might violate federal
extortion statutes. (See, e.g., Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to
Newark Field Office, 2/19/71.) Such threats were mailed or telephoned on
25 Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Chicago Field Office, 1/30/70.
26 Hearing of the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Constitutional Rights
11/20/74, p. 11. The Petersen Committee, composed of Department of Justice
attorneys and Bureau agents, was formed in 1974 at the request of
Attorney General Saxbe to investigate COINTELPRO. Its conclusions are
discussed on pp. 73-76.
27 3,247 actions were proposed.
28 E.g., Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to San Francisco Field Office, 11/1/65.
29 E.g., Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to San Francisco Field Office, 11/26/68.
30 E.g., Memorandum from Los Angeles Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 12/12/68.
31 E.g., Memorandum from Newark Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 7/3/69.
The term "snitch jacket" is not part of Bureau jargon; it was used by
those familiar with the Bureau's activities directed against the Black Panther
Party in a staff interview.
32 E.g., Memorandum from Columbia Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 11/4/70.
33 E.g., Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Chicago Field Office, 8/2/68.
34 E.g., Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Cleveland and Boston Field Offices, 5/5/64.
35 E.g., Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Minneapolis Field Office, 11/18/69.
36 E.g., Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to San Antonio Field Office, 4/6/70.
37 E.g., Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Minneapolis Field Office, 11/19/70.
38 E.g., Memorandum from Midwest City Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 8/1/68.
39 Mechanically, the Bureau's programs were administered at headquarters, but
individual actions were proposed and usually carried out by the field. A field
proposal under the COINTELPRO caption would be routed to a special
agent supervising that particular program. During most of
COINTELPRO's history that supervisor was a member of the section at the
Domestic Intelligence Division with investigative responsibility for the
subject of the proposal. The supervisor's recommendation then went up through the
Bureau hierarchy. Proposals were rarely approved below the level of
Assistant Director in charge of the Division, and often were approved by one of the
top three men in the Bureau.
39a New Left supervisor testimony, 10/28/75, pp. 72, 74.
40 George C. Moore testimony, 11/3/75, p. 62.
41 Moore, 11/3/75, p. 64
42 Sullivan, 11/1/75, p. 97.
43 James B. Adams testimony, 11/19/75, Hearings, Vol. 6, pp. 73, 75.
44 The unit chief stated: "The Bureau people did not think that they were doing
anything wrong and most of us to this day do not think we were doing
anything wrong." (Unit chief, 10/16/75, p. 102.) Moore felt the same
way: "I thought I did something very important during those days. I have
no apologies to make for anything we did, really." (Moore 11/3/75, p. 25.)
45 Unit chief, 10/16/75, pp. 11, 12, 14.
46 Unit chief, 10/10/75, pp. 12-14, Deputy Associate Director Adams' testimony
on COINTELPRO noted that "interpretations as to the
constitutionality of [the Smith Act of 1940] leave us with a statute still on the books
that proscribes certain actions, but yet the degree of proof necessary to
operate under the few remaining areas is such that there was no satisfactory
way to proceed." (Adams testimony, 11/19/75. Hearings, Vol. 6. p. 71.)
In fact, the Smith Act decisions did not come down until 1957. Perhaps
the witnesses were referring to Communist Party v. Subversive Activities
Control Board, 351 U.S. 115 (1956), which held that testimony by "tainted"
Government witnesses required remanding the case to the Board.
47 Unit chief, 10/16/75, p. 15.
48 One witness also pointed out that while the federal antiriot and antibombing
statutes were not passed until 1968, inadequate statutes were not
the only problem. Statutes directed at specific criminal acts would only
have served to allow prosecution after the crime; they would not have prevented the
act in the first place. He also stated that he did not believe it would be
possible to pass a statute which would have given the Bureau the tools necessary to
prevent violence by disrupting the growth of violence-prone organizations --
"because of something called the United States Constitution." When asked
whether that answer implied that preventing the growth of an
organization is unconstitutional, he answered, "I think so." (Black Nationalist
supervisor, 10/1/75, pp. 25-26.) He was the only Bureau witness who had
reservations about COINTELPRO's constitutionality. Another witness gave a more
typical response. When asked whether anybody at any time during the
course of the programs discussed their constitutionality or legal authority, he
replied, "No, we never gave it a thought." (Moore, 11/3/75, p. 83.)
49 Moore, 11/3/75, p. 79.
50 Ramsey Clark testimony, 12/3/75, Hearings, Vol. 6,1).245).
Nicholas deB. Katzenbach testimony, 12/3/75, Hearings, Vol. 6, p. 217.
52 These summaries were the point of departure for the Select Committee's
investigation but were deemed unsatisfactory for a complete inquiry.
53 For instance, the Department is defending litigation commenced against the
Bureau by COINTELPRO victims who happen to have received their files
through Freedom of Information Act requests. More such litigation may
arise as more targets learn of Bureau actions taken against them.
54 The New Left supervisor stated, "[The COINTELPRO caption was] as much
as it was anything else, and administrative device to channel the mail to
the Bureau . . . we get back to this old argument between the supervisors not
argument, but discussion, between the supervisors, it falls on yours, no, it
doesn't, it's yours." (New Left Supervisor, 10/28/75, p. 49.)
55 The Bureau can and does reveal its interest in the subjects of investigation to
employees, family members, and neighbors. The Black Nationalist
supervisor explained, "Generally speaking, we should not be giving out
information to somebody we are trying to get information from. As a practical
matter sometimes we have to. The mere fact that you contact somebody about
someone gives them the indication that the FBI is interested in that
person." (Black Nationalist deposition, 10/17/75, p. 16). See also the statement
of the Social Workers Party, 10/2/75, which details more than 200
incidents involving its members since COINTELPRO's termination. The
SWP believes these to be as disruptive as the formal SWP COINTELPRO.
56 Memorandum from Charles D. Brennan to William C. Sullivan, 4/27/71,
Hearings, Vol. 6, Exhibit 55-3.
57 In one instance, a field office was authorized to contact the editor of a
Southern newspaper to suggest that he have reporters interview Klan members and
write an article based on those interviews. The editor was also furnished
information on Klan use of the polygraph to "weed out FBI
informants." According to the Bureau, "subsequent publication of the Klan's
activities resulted in a number of Klan officials ceasing their activities." (Letter
from FBI to the Senate Select Committee 10/24/75.) The
second case involved an anonymous letter and derogatory newspaper
clipping which were sent to a Black Panther Party office in the Northeast to
discredit a Panther leader's abilities. (Letter from FBI to the Senate Select
58 It should be noted that Charles Colson spent seven months in jail for similar
activity involving the client.
59 Letter from Attorney General Edward H. Levi to the Senate Select
Committee, 5/23/75. These included: (1) 37 actions authorized between 1960
and 1971 "aimed at militant groups which sought Puerto Rican
independence;" (2) "Operation Hoodwink," from October 1966 to July 1968,
"aimed at putting organized crime elements in competition with the Communist
Party USA;" (3) a 1961 program targeted against "a foreign-dominated group;"
(4) two actions taken between January 1969 and March 1971 against "a
foreign nationality group in the United States;" and (5) seven actions between 1961
and 1968 against members, leaders, and factions of "a foreign communist
The FBI's operations against "a foreign communist party" indicate that the
Bureau, as well as the CIA, has engaged in covert action abroad.
60 Clarence M. Kelley testimony, House Civil Rights and Constitutional Rights
Subcommittee hearings, 11/20/74, pp. 44-45. This statement appears to
be an explicit recognition that one purpose of COINTELPRO was to
influence political events.
61 omitted in original.
62 Clarence M. Kelley testimony, 12/10/75, Hearings, Vol. 6, 1). 283, 284.
Affirmative legal steps to meet an imminent threat to life or property are, of course,
quite proper. The difficulty with the Director's statement, juxtaposed as
it was with a discussion of COINTELPRO, is that the threats COINTELPRO
purported to meet were not imminent, the techniques used
were sometimes illegal, and the purposes went far beyond the prevention
of death or destruction.
63 Memorandum from Alan Belmont to L. V. Boardman, 8/28/56, Hearings, vol.
6, exhibit 12.
64 1,388 of a total of 2,370.
65 Excerpt from materials prepared for the FBI Director's briefing of the House
Appropriations Subcommittee, FY 1966, p. 2.
66 According to Sullivan, membership in the Communist Party declined steadily
through the '60s. When the CPUSA membership dropped below a
certain figure, Director Hoover ordered that the membership figures be
classified. Sullivan believes that this was done to protect the Bureau's appropriations.
(Sullivan, 11/1/75, pp. 33-34.)
67 For instance, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference was targeted as a
"Black Nationalist-Hate Group." (memorandum from FBI headquarters to all
QA! SAC's, 3/4/68, p. 4.)
68 Memorandum from Alan Belmont to L. V. Boardman, 8/28/56, Hearings,
Vol. 6. exhibit 12.
69 Sullivan testimony, 11/1/75, pp. 42-43.
70 As noted earlier, Bureau personnel also trace the decision to adopt
counterIntelligence methods to the Supreme Court decisions overturning the Smith
Act convictions. As the unit chief put it, "The Supreme Court rulings
had rendered the Smith Act technically unenforceable .... it made it
ineffective to prosecute Communist Party members, made it impossible to prosecute
Communist Party members at the time." (Unit chief, 10/16/75, p. 14).
71 Unit chief, 10/16/75, p. 10.
72 Memorandum from New Haven Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 5/24/60.
73 Memorandum from Milwaukee Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 7/13/60, pp. 1-2.
74 Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to San Francisco Field Office, 9/13/68.
75 Sullivan, 11/1/75, p. 29.
76 Unit chief, 10/16/75, p. 40.
77 Charles D. Brennan testimony, Senate Select Committee on Campaign Activities,
6/13/73, p. 10.
78 Robert Shackleford testimony, 2/6/76, pp. 88-89.
79) Memorandum from FBI Headquarters.
80 For example, anonymous letters were sent to the parents of two nonmember
students participating in a hunger strike against the war at a midwest college,
because the fast was sponsored by the Young Socialist Alliance. The
letters warned that the students' participation "could lead to injury to [their]
health and damage [their] academic standing," and alerted them to their
sons' "involvement in left wing activities." It was hoped that the parents
would "protest to the college that the fast is being allowed" and that the
Young Socialist Alliance was permitted on campus. (Memorandum from
FBI headquarters to Cleveland Field Office, 11/29/68.)
81 Memorandum from J. H. Gale to Charles Tolsen, 7/30/64, p. 5. Opinion
within the Division had been sharply divided on the merits of this transfer. Some
saw it as an attempt to bring the Intelligence Division's expertise in
penetrating secret organizations to bear on a problem -- Klan involvement in the
murder of civil rights workers -- creating tremendous pressures on the
Bureau to solve. Traditional law enforcement methods were insufficient because of
a lack of Federal statutes, and the noncooperation of local law enforcement.
Others thought that the Klan's activities were essentially a law
enforcement problem, and that the transfer would dilute the Division's
major internal security responsibility. Those who opposed the transfer lost, and trace
many of the Division's subsequent difficulties to this "substantial
enlargement" of the Division's responsibilities. ("Unit chief, 10/16/75, pp. 45-47.)
82 Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Atlanta Field Office, 9/2/64, p. 1.
83 FBI Headquarters memorandum, 9/2/64, p. 3.
84 Unit Chief, 10/14/75, p. 54.
85 A few actions were approved against the "Minutemen," when it became
known that members were stockpiling weapons.
86 Unit Chief, 10/16/75, p. 48.
87 Moore, 11/3/75, p. 31.
88 Note that this characterization had no substantive meaning within the Bureau.
See p. 4.
89 Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to all SAC's, 8/25/67.
90 Black Nationalist supervisor, 10/17/75, pp. 66-67. The supervisor stated that
individual NOI members were involved with sporadic violence against
police, but the organization was not itself involved in violence. (Black
National supervisor, 10/17/75, p. 67.) Moore agreed that the NOI was
not involved in organizational violence, adding that the Nation of Islam
had been unjustly blamed for violence in the ghetto riots of 1967 and
1968: "We had a good informant coverage of the Nation of Islam.... We
were able to take a very positive stand and tell the Department of Justice and
tell everybody else who accused the Nation of Islam ... [that they] were not
involved in any of the riots or disturbances. Elijah Muhammed kept them under
control, and he did not have them on the streets at all during any of the
riots." (Moore, 11/3/75, p. 36.)
When asked why, therefore, the NOI was included as a target, Mr. Moore
answered: "Because of the potential, they did represent a potential ... they were a
paramilitary type. They had drills, the Fruit of Islam, they had the capability
because they were a force to be reckoned with, with the snap of his
finger Elijah Muhammed could bring them into any situation. So that there
was a very definite potential, very definite potential." (Moore, 11/3/75, p. 37.)
91 The unit chief, who wrote the letter on instructions from his superiors,
concedes that the letter directed field offices to gather personal life information on
targets, not for "scandalous reasons," but "to deter violence or neutralize the
activities of violence-prone groups." (Unit chief, 10/16/75, p. 66.)
92 Moore, 11/3/75, pp. 37, 39, 40.
93 Primary targets listed in this second letter are the Southern Christian
Leadership Conference, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee,
Revolutionary Action Movement, Nation of Islam, Stokely Carmichael, H.
"Rap" Brown, Martin Luther King, Maxwell Stanford, and Elijah Muhammed.
CORE was dropped for reasons no witness was able to reconstruct. The agent
who prepared the second letter disagreed with the inclusion of the
SCLC, but lost. (Black Nationalist supervisor, 10/17/75, p. 14.)
94 Memorandum from FBI headquarters to all SAC's, 3/4/68, pp. 3-4.
95 Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Baltimore Field Office, 11/25/68.
96 Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to all SAC's, 1/30/69.
97 This technique, the "snitch jacket," was used in all COINTELPRO programs.
98 Moore, 11/3/75, pp. 34, 50-52.
99 As the New Left supervisor put it, "I cannot recall any document that was
written defining New Left as such. It is my impression that the
characterization of New Left groups rather than being defined at any specific time
by document, it more or less grew...." Agreeing it was a very amorphous
term, he added: "It has never been strictly defined, as far as I
know.... It is more or less an attitude I would think." (New Left supervisor,
10/28/75, pp. 7-8.)
100 New Left supervisor, 10/28/75, pp. 21-22.
101 Memorandum from Charles D. Brennan to William C. Sullivan, 5/9/68.
102 omitted in original.
103 memorandum from FBI headquarters to all SAC's, 5/23/68. Memorandum
from FBI headquarters to all SACs, 10/9/68. This time the field
offices got the message. One example of information furnished under the
"Immorality" caption comes from the Boston field office;
"[Informant] who has provided reliable information in the past concerning the
activities of the New Left in the Metropolitan Boston area has advised that
numerous meetings concerning anti-Vietnam and/or draft activity are
conducted by members sitting around the table or a living room completely in the
nude. These same individuals, both male and female, live and sleep
together regularly and it is not unusual to have these people take up residence with a
different partner after a six or seven month period.
"According to the informant, the living conditions and habits of some of the New
Left adherents are appalling in that certain individuals have been known
to wear the same clothes for an estimated period of weeks and in some
instances for months. Personal hygiene and eating habits are equally
neglected by these people, the informant said.
"The informant has noted that those individuals who most recently joined the
movement are in most instances the worst offenders as far as moral and
personal habits are concerned. However, if these individuals remain in the
movement for any length of time, their appearance and personal habits
appear to improve somewhat." (Memorandum from Boston Field Office to FBI
106 Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to all SACs, 10/9/68.
107 Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Chicago Field Office, 8/28/68.
108 Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to all SAC's, 9/9/68.
109 Note that there was no attempt to determine whether the allegations were
true. Ramsey Clark, Attorney General at the time, testified that he did not
know that either directive had been issued and that "they are highly
improper." He also noted that the Bureau's close working relationship with state and
local police forces had made it necessary to "preempt the FBI" in cases
involving the investigation of police misconduct' "we found it necessary to use the
Civil Rights Division, and that is basically what we did." (Clark, 12/3/75,
Hearings Vol. 6. pp. 254-255.)
110 Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to all SAC's, 7/6/68.
111 The New Left supervisor confirmed what the documents reveal:
"legitimate" (nonviolent) antiwar groups were targeted because they were
"lending aid and comfort" to more disruptive groups. According to the New Left supervisor:
"This [nonviolent groups protesting against the war] was the type of thing that the
New Left, the violent portion, would seize upon. They could use the
legitimacy of an accepted college group or outside group to further their interests."
(New Left supervisor, 10/28/75, p. 39)
Nonviolent groups were thus disrupted so there would be less opportunity for a
violent group to make use of them and their respectability. Professors active
in "New Left matters," whether involved in violence or just in general protest,
were targeted for "using [their] good offices to lend aid and comfort to
the entire protest movement or to help disrupt the school through [their]
programs." (New Left supervisor, 10/28/75, p. 69.)
112 Memorandum from FBI Headquarters, Minneapolis Field Office, 11/4/68.
113 Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to San Antonio Field Office, 8/27/68.
114 Huston was the Presidential assistant who coordinated the 1970
recommendations by an interagency committee for expanded domestic
intelligence, including concededly illegal activity. The so-called "Huston Plan" is
the subject of a separate report.
115 Tom Charles Huston testimony, 9/23/75, Hearings, Vol. 2, p. 45.
116 The usual constitutional inquiry is whether the government is "chilling" First
Amendment rights by indirectly discouraging a protected activity while
pursuing an otherwise legitimate purpose. In the case of COINTELPRO,
the Bureau was not attempting indirectly to chill free speech or association; it
was squarely attacking their exercise.
117 The percentage is derived from a cross-indexed tabulation of the Petersen
Committee summaries. Interestingly, these categories account for 39
percent of the approved "New Left" proposals, which reflects both the close
connection between antiwar activities and the campuses, and the "aid and
comfort" theory of targeting, in which teachers were targeted for advocating an end
to the war through nonviolent means.
118 The group was composed largely of university teachers and clergymen who
had bought shares in order to attend the meeting. (Memorandum from
Minneapolis Field Office to FBI headquarters, 4/1/70.)
119 Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Minneapolis Field Office, 4/23/70;
memorandum from Minneapolis Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 4/1/70.
120 Memorandum from Detroit Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 10/26/60;
Memoranda from FBI Headquarters to Detroit Field Office, 10/27/60,
10/28/60, 10/31/60; Memorandum from F. J. Baumgardner to Alan H. Belmont, 10/26/60.
121 It is interesting to note that after the anonymous calls to the newspapers
giving information on the "communist nature" of the sponsor, the conference center
director called the local FBI office to ask for information on the speaker.
He was informed that Bureau records are confidential and that the
Bureau could not make any comment.
122 Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Pittsburgh Field Office, 6/19/69.
123 Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Pittsburgh Field Office, 5/1/70.
124 Memorandum from Detroit Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 10/11/66;
memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Detroit Field Office, 10/26/66.
125 Memorandum from Mobile Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 12/9/70;
memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Mobile Field Office, 12/31/70;
memorandum from Mobile Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 2/3/71.
126 In one example, a letter signed "A Black Parent" was sent to the mayor, the
Superintendent of Schools, the Commander of the American Legion, and
two newspapers in a northeastern city protesting a high school's
subscription to the BPP newspaper. The letter was also intended to focus attention
on the teacher who entered the subscription "so as to deter him from
implementing black extremist literature and philosophy into the Black
History curriculum" of the school system. (Memorandum from Buffalo
Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 2/5/70.)
127 Memorandum from Los Angeles Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 9/9/68;
memorandum from FBI Headquarters to SAC, Los Angeles Field Office, 9/23/68.
128 Memorandum from Newark Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 5/23/69;
memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Newark Field Office, 6/4/69.
129 Memorandum from Detroit Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 2/28/69;
memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Detroit Field Office, 3/27/69.
130 For example, one proposal requested that the FBI Lab prepare a quart of
solution "capable of duplicating a scent of the most foul smelling feces available,"
along with a dispenser capable of squirting a narrow stream for a
distance of approximately three feet. The proposed targets were the physical
plant of a New Left publisher and BPP publications prior to their
distribution. Headquarters instructed the field office to furnish more
information about the purpose for the material's use and the manner and security
with which it would be used. The idea was then apparently dropped.
(Memorandum from Detroit Meld Office to FBI Headquarters,
10/13/70; memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Detroit Field Office, 10/23/70.)
131 Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Los Angeles Field Office, 9/23/68.
132 Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to San Antonio Field Office, 5/13/69.
133 Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Indianapolis Field Office, 6/17/68.
134 Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to all SAC's, 12/30/68.
135 One of the 12 standard techniques referred to in the New Left memorandum
discussed at pp. 25--26, disinformation bridges the line between
"counterintelligence" and sabotage.
136 Memorandum from Chicago Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 9/9/68;
memorandum from Charles Brennan to William C. Sullivan, 8/15/68.
137 Memorandum from Washington Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 1/21/69.
138 Egil Krogh has stated to the Committee staff that he was in charge of
coordinating D.C. law enforcement efforts during demonstrations, and gained the
cooperation of NMC marshals to ensure an orderly demonstration. This law
enforcement/NMC coordination was effected through the same walkie-talkie
system the Bureau was disrupting. (Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Washington
Field Office, 1/10/69; staff summary of Egil Krogh interview, 5/23/75.)
139 Memorandum from Cincinnati Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 12/20/68;
memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Cinncinnati Field Office, 12/29/68.
140 Memoranda from New York Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 9/15/67,
9/26/67, and 10/17/67; memorandum from FBI Headquarters to New York Field
Office, 9/29/67. By letter of January 14, 1976, the. Bureau submitted
specific instances of "action, other than arrest and prosecution, to
prevent any stage of [a] crime or violent acts from being initiated" which had
been taken. The examples were intended to aid in developing "preventive
One of the examples was the prevention of the publisher's plan to drop flowers
over the Pentagon: "A plan was thus thwarted which could well have
resulted in tragedy had another pilot accepted such a dangerous flying
mission and violated Federal or local regulations in flying low over the
Pentagon which is also in the heavy traffic pattern of the Washington
National Airport." The letter does not explain why it was necessary to act covertly
in this case. If flying over the Pentagon violates Federal regulations,
the Bureau could have arrested those involved when they arrived
at the airport. No informant was involved; the newspaper had advertised
openly for a pilot.
141 Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Albuquerque Field Office, 3/19/69.
142 Memorandum from Boston Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 1/22/66.
143 Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to El Paso Field Office, 12/6/68.
144 Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to New York Field Office, 3/19/65.
145 Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Cleveland and Boston Field Offices, 5/6/64.
146 Mr. Huston learned that lesson as well:
"We went from this kind of sincere intention, honest intention, to develop a series
of justifications and rationalizations based upon this ... distorted view of
inherent executive power and from that, whether it was direct ... or was indirect
or inevitable, as I tend to think it is, you went down the road to where you
ended up, with these people going into the Watergate.
"And so that has convinced me that you have just got to draw the line at the top
of the totem pole, and that we would then have to take the risk -- it is not a
risk-free choice, but it is one that, I am afraid, in my judgment, that we do not
have any alternative but to take." (Huston, 9/23/75, p. 45.)
147 Sullivan, 11/1/75, pp. 97-98.
148 Moore, 11/3/75, pp. 32-33.
149 The percentages used in this section are derived from a staff tabulation of the
Petersen Committee summaries. The numbers are approximate because it
was occasionally difficult to determine from the summary what the purpose
of the technique was.
150 The resulting articles could then be used in the reprint mailing program.
151 Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Minneapolis Field Office, 11/4/68.
152 Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Boston Field Office, 9/12/68.
153 Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to San Francisco Field Office, 11/1/65.
154 Levi 12/11/75, Hearings, Vol. 6, p. 318.
155 "Name checks" were apparently run on all reporters proposed for use in the
program, to make sure they were reliable. In one case, a check of Bureau
files showed that a television reporter proposed as the recipient of
information on the SDS had the same name as someone who had served in the
Abraham Lincoln Brigade. The field office was asked to determine
whether the "individuals" were "identical." The field office obtained the reporter's
credit records, voting registration, and local police records, and
determined that his credit rating was satisfactory, that he had no arrest record, that
he "stated a preference for one of the two major Political Parties" -- and
that he was not, in fact, the man who fought in the Spanish Civil war.
Accordingly, the information was furnished. (Memorandum from Pittsburgh Field
Office to FBI Headquarters, 12/26/68; memorandum from FBI
Headquarters to Pittsburgh Field Office, 1/23/69.)
156 The Bureau also noted, for its files, those who criticized its work or its
Director, and the Division maintained a "not-to-contact" list which included the
names of some reporters and authors. One proposal to leak information to the
Boston Globe was turned down because both the newspaper and one of its reporters
"have made unfounded criticisms of the FBI in the past." The
Boston ]Field Office was advised to resubmit the suggestion using another
newspaper. (Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Boston Field Office, 2/8/68.)
157 Leaking derogatory information is discussed at p. 50.
158 The Committee's agreement with the Bureau governing document
production Provided that the Bureau could excise the names of "confidential
sources" when the documents were delivered to the Committee.
Although the staff was permitted to see the excised names at
Bureau headquarters, it was also agreed that the names not be used.
159 Note that Bureau witnesses testified that the NOI was not, in fact, involved
in organization violence. See pp. 20-21.
160 Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Boston Field Office, 2/27/68.
161 Memorandum from Tampa Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 8/5/68.
162 Memorandum from Tampa Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 2/7/69.
163 Memorandum from G. C. Moore to William C. Sullivan, 10/21/69.
164 This technique was also used in disseminating propaganda. The distinction
lies in the purpose for which the letter, article or flier was mailed.
165 Black Nationalist supervisor, 10/17/75, p. 40.
166 Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Baltimore Field Office, 11/25/68.
167 Memorandum from San Diego Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 2/20/69;
memorandum from San Diego Field Office to FBI Headquarters,
3/27/69; memorandum from FBI Headquarters to San Diego Field Office, 4/4/69.
168 Memorandum from Newark Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 8/15/69.
According to the proposal, the letter would not be typed by the field office
stenographic pool because of the language. The field office also used asterisks
in its communication with headquarters which "refer to that colloquial
phrase ... which implies an unnatural physical relationship with a
maternal parent." Presumably the phrase was used in the letter when it was
sent to the Panthers.
169 Memorandum from Chicago Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 1/12/69:
memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Chicago Field Office, 1/30/69.
170 Memorandum from Philadelphia Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 11/25/68;
memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Philadelphia Field Office, 12/9/68.
171 Memorandum from San Diego Meld Office to FBI Headquarters, 4/10/69, p. 4.
172 Memorandum from San Diego Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 11/12/69.
173 Memorandum from San Diego Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 11/12/69.
174 Memorandum from San Diego Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 12/3/69.
175 Memorandum from New Haven Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 2/18/70.
176 Memorandum from San Francisco Field Office to FBI Headquarters,
8/27/69; memorandum from FBI Headquarters to San Francisco Meld Office, 9/5/69.
177 Memorandum from Detroit Meld Office to FBI Headquarters, 2/10/70;
memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Detroit Field Office, 3/3/70.
178 Memorandum from Indianapolis Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 9/23/69.
179 Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to all SACs, 10/28/70.
180 Memorandum from Jackson Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 11/27/68.
182 Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to New York Field Office, 9/6/56.
183 Memorandum from Los Angeles Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 12/12/68. p. 1
184 Memorandum from San Diego Meld Office to FBI Headquarters, 2/2/70.
185 Memorandum from New York Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 7/9/64.
186 Memorandum from C. D. Brennan to W. C. Sullivan, 8/28/67.
187 Memorandum from F. J. Baumgardner to W. C. Sullivan, 1/5/65.
188 Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to San Diego Field Office, 2/14/09.
189 Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Jackson Field Office. 11/15/68.
190 Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to New York Field Office, 2/9/60.
191 Memorandum from San Diego Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 2/17/69;
memorandum from FBI Headquarters to San Diego Field Office, 3/6/69;
memorandum from San Diego Field Office to FBI Headquarters 4/30/69.
192 Memorandum from San Diego Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 1/31/69;
memorandum from FBI Headquarters to San Diego Field Office, 2/14/69.
193 One Bureau document stated that the Black Panther Party "has murdered
two members it suspected of being police informants."
(memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Cincinnati Field Office, 2/18/71.)
194 Memorandum from San Diego Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 2/11/69;
memorandum to San Diego Field Office from FBI Headquarters, 2/19/69.
195 Memorandum from New York Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 2/14/69;
memorandum from FBI Headquarters to New York Field Office, 3/10/69.
196 Memorandum to FBI Headquarters from SAC, Newark, 7/3/69;
memorandum to Newark Field Office from FBI Headquarters, 7/14/69.
197 Memorandum from Kansas City Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 10/16/69;
memorandum from FBI Headquarters to San Francisco Field Office, 11/3/69.
198 Memorandum to FBI Headquarters from San Diego Field Office, 3/6/70;
memorandum from FBI Headquarters to San Diego Field Office, 3/6/70.
199 Memorandum from Charlotte Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 3/23/71;
memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Charlotte Field Office, 3/31/71.
200 Memorandum from Charlotte Field Office to FBI Headquarters 3/23/71;
memorandum FBI Headquarters to Charlotte Field Office, 3/31/71.
201 In fact, some proposals were turned down for that reason. See, e.g., letter
from FBI Headquarters to Cincinnati Field Office, 2/18/71, in which a
proposal that an imprisoned BPP member be labeled a "pig informer" was
rejected because it was possible it would result in the target's death. But
note that just one month later, two similar proposals were approved. Letter
from FBI Headquarters to Washington Field Office, 3/19/71, and letter
from FBI Headquarters to Charlotte Field Office, 3/31/71.
202 Black Nationalist supervisor, 10/17/75, p. 39.
203 Moore, 11/3/15, p. 64.
204 The minister has given the Select Committee an affidavit which states that
there was an organized attempt by the Bureau's source to disrupt the
Church's meetings, including "fist fights." Affidavit of Rev. Dennis G. Kuby, 10/19/75).
205 Memorandum from Cleveland Meld Office to FBI Headquarters, 10/28/64;
memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Cleveland Field Office, 11/6/64.
206 Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Cleveland Field Office, 11/6/64.
207 Memorandum from Detroit Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 10/18/66, p. 2.
208 Memorandum from Detroit Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 1/19/67.
The lawyer was targeted, along with his law firm, because the firm "has a long
history of providing services for individual communists and communist
organizations," and because he belonged to the National Lawyers Guild.
209 Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Detroit Field Office, 1/16/67.
210 Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Detroit Field Office, 1/10/67.
211 Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Detroit Field Office, 11/3/66.
212 Memorandum from F. J. Baumgardner to William C. Sullivan, 10/4/66;
memorandum from FBI Headquarters to New York Field Office, 10/5/66.
A similar proposal attempted "to cause dissension between Negro numbers
operators and the Italian hoodlum element" in Detroit. The Bureau had information
that black "numbers men" were contributing money to the local "black power movement."
An anonymous letter containing a black handand the words "watch out" was sent a
minister who was "the best known black militant in Detroit." The letter was intended
to achieve two objectives. First, the minister was expected to assume that "the Italian
hoodlum element was responsible for this letter, report this to the Negro numbers
operators, and thereby cause them to further resent the Italian hoodlum element." Second,
it is also possible that [the minister] may become extremely frightened upon receipt of
this letter and sever his contact with the Negro numbers men in Detroit and might even
restrict his black nationalist activity or leave Detroit. (Memorandum from the Detroit Field
Office to FBI Headquarters, 6/14/68; Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Detroit
Field Office, 6/28/68.)
213 Letters were also sent to parents informing them that their children were in
communes, or with a roommate of the opposite sex; information on an
actress' pregnancy by a Black Panther was sent to a gossip columnist; and
information about a partner's affair with another partner's wife was sent to the
members of a law firm as well as the injured spouses.
Personal life information was not the only kind of derogatory information
disseminated; information on the "subversive background" of a target (or family
member) was also used, as were arrest records.
214 Memorandum from Richmond Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 8/26/66.
215 Memorandum from St. Louis Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 1/30/70.
216 Memorandum from St. Louis Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 1/30/70.
Note that there is no allegation that ACTION was engaged in
violence. When the target was interviewed by the staff, she was asked whether
ACTION ever took part in violent activities. She replied that someone once
spat in a communion cup during a church sit-in and that members
sometimes used four letter words, which was considered violent in her city. The
staff member then asked about more conventionally violent acts, such as
throwing bricks or burning buildings. Her response was a shocked, "Oh, no!
I'm a pacifist -- I wouldn't be involved in an organization like that." (Staff
interview of a COINTELPRO target.)
216a Memorandum from St. Louis Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 1/30/70.
217 Memorandum from St. Louis Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 6/17/70.
218 Memorandum from St. Louis Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 2/14/69, p. 1.
219 Memorandum from St. Louis Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 2/14/69, pp. 2-3.
220 House Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional
Rights, Hearings, 11/20/74, p. 11.
221 There were 84 contacts with employers or 3 percent of the total.
222 Memorandum from New Haven Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 11/12/69.
223 Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to San Diego Field Office, 9/11/69.
224 Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to San Francisco Field Office, 9/29/64.
225 The FBI also used a "confidential source" in a foundation to gain funding for
a "moderate" civil rights organization. (Memorandum from G. C. Moore to W.
C. Sullivan, 10/23/68.)
226 Memorandum from New York Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 6/18/70.
227 Memorandum from New York Field office to FBI Headquarters, 8/19/70.
228 Memoranda from FBI Headquarters to Pittsburgh Field Office, 3/3/69 and 4/3/69.
229 Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to New York Field Office, 7/2/64.
230 Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Cincinnati Field Office, 3/28/69.
231 Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to all SAC's, 10/9/68.
232 Moore, 11/3/75, p. 47.
233 Federal agencies were also used. For instance, a foreign-born professor
active in the New Left was deported by the Immigration and Naturalization Service
at the Bureau's instigation. (Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to
San Diego Field Office, 9/6/68.) The Bureau's use of the IRS in
COINTELPRO is included in a separate report. Among other actions, the Bureau
obtained an activist professor's tax returns and then used a source in a
regional IRS office to arrange an audit. The audit was intended to be timed to
interfere with the professor's meetings to plan protest demonstrations in the
1968 Democratic convention.
234 The fund raiser was targeted because of two of the candidates who would be
present. One, a state assemblyman running for reelection, was active in the Vietnam
Day Committee; the other, the Democratic candidate for Congress, had been a sponsor
of the National Committee to Abolish the House Committee on Un-American
Activities and had led demonstrations opposing the manufacture of napalm bombs.
(Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to San Francisco Field Office, 10/21/66.)
234 Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to San Francisco Field Office, 11/14/66.
237 Memorandum from New York Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 2/23/60;
memorandum from FBI Headquarters to New York Field Office, 3/11/60;
memorandum from New York Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 11/10/60;
memorandum from FBI Headquarters to New York Field Office, 11/17/60.
238 omitted in original.
239 memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Minneapolis Field Office, 7/22/69;
memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Minneapolis Field Office,
4/9/69. Charles Colson spent seven months in jail for violating the civil
rights of a defendant in a criminal case through the deliberate creation of
prejudicial pretrial publicity.
240 Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Miami Field Office, 6/23/66;
memorandum from Miami Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 9/30/66.
241 Memorandum from New York Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 4/5/67.
The Bureau also obtained legal advice from a probate attorney on how
the will could be attacked; contacted other relatives of the deceased;
leaked information about the will to a city newspaper; and solicited the efforts
of the IRS and state taxing authorities to deplete the estate as much as possible.
241a Memorandum from Atlanta Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 7/13/70.
242 Memorandum from Detroit Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 9/15/65;
memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Detroit Field Office, 9/22/65.
243 Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Detroit Field Office, 10/1/65.
244 Memorandum from Detroit Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 10/24/66;
memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Detroit Field Office, 11/3/66.
245 According to the documents, "operating under the direction of New York
headquarters," a document was placed in the record by the Committee
which according to the "presiding officer," indicated that the CP
planned to hold its national convention in Philadelphia. The field office
added, "This office is not aware of any such plan of the CP."
Memorandum from, Philadelphia Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 11/3/59;
memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Philadelphia Field Office, 11/12/59.
246 Note that the "Communist" label was loosely applied, and might mean only
that an informant reported that a target had attended meetings of a "front"
group some years earlier. As noted earlier, none of the
"COINTELPRO" labels were precise.
247 Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Phoenix Field Office, 6/11/68.
248 Memorandum from William C. Sullivan, 2/4/64; memorandum from FBI
Headquarters to New York Field Office, 2/12/64.
249 The target was not intended to be the United Farm Workers, but a local
college professor expected to participate in the picket line. The Bureau had
unsuccessfully directed "considerable efforts to prevent hiring" the professor.
Apparently, the Bureau did not consider the impact of this technique on the
United Farm Workers' efforts. Memorandum from San Francisco Field
Office to FBI Headquarters 9/12/68; Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to San
Francisco Field Office, 9/13/68.
250 Memorandum from San Francisco Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 4/16/64.
251 Memorandum from San Francisco Field Office to FBI Headquarters,
3/10/67; memorandum from FBI Headquarters to San Francisco Field Office, 3/14/67.
252 The CPUSA, SWP, and New Left programs were handled in the Internal
Security Section; the White Hate program was first handled in a short-lived
three-man "COINTELPRO unit" which, during the three years of its
existence, supervised the CP and SWP programs as well, and then was transferred
to the Extremists Section; the Black Nationalist program was
supervised by the Racial Intelligence Section. The Section Chief would then route
the proposal to the COINTELPRO supervisor for each program.
Occasionally the Section Chief made a recommendation as to the proposal; more
often the supervisor made the initial decision to approve or deny.
253 No control file was maintained of these directives. Since these directives
were sent out under the investigative caption, the first time the COINTELPRO
caption would be used was on the field proposal which responded to the directives.
254 (Unit chief, 10/16/75, p. 167.) There is no central file of such awards, so the
number is retrievable only by searching each agent's personnel file.
255 According to Moore, even the "snitch jacket" -- labeling a group member as
an informant when he is not -- is not solely a counterintelligence technique,
but may be used, in an ordinary investigation, to protect a real
informant, "Maybe . . . you had an informant whose life was at stake because
somebody suspected him and the degree of response . . . might be the degree that
you would have to use in order to sow enough suspicion on other people
to take it away from your informant." (Moore, 11/3/75, p. 70)
256 See Dr. Martin Luther King Report.
256a Black Nationalist deposition, 10/17/75, p. 15.
257 As Moore put it, "This was a program, and whenever the Bureau had a
program, you had to produce results because it was scrutinized by the inspectors,
not only during your own inspection on a yearly basis, but also
scrutinized in the field during field inspections." (Moore, 11/3/75, p. 43.) The New
Left supervisor, who received copies of the inspection reports, stated that
"it would be an innocuous type report in every instance I can recall." (New
Left supervisor, 10/28/75, p. 72)
For example, one Domestic Intelligence Division inspection report on the "White
Hate" programs noted under "Accomplishments" that the decline in
Klan organizations is attributable to "hard-hitting investigations,
counterintelligence programs directed at them, and penetration . . . by our racial
informants." The report then lists several specific actions, including the defeat
of a candidate with Klan affiliations; the removal from office of a high
Klan official; and the issuance of a derogatory press release. (Inspection,
Domestic Intelligence Division, 1/8-26/71, pp. 15, 17-19.)
258 Mark Felt testimony, 2/3/76, pp. 56,65.
259 For security reasons, no instructions were printed in the Manual. In service
training for intelligence agents did contain an hour on COINTELPRO,
so it may be assumed that most agents knew something about the programs.
For instances in which Attorneys General, the Cabinet, and the House
Subcommittee on Appropriations were allegedly informed of the existence of the
CPUSA and Klan COINTELPROs. [sic]
260 Memorandum from FBI Headquarters to all SAC's, 8/25/67.
261 One example of the lengths to which the Bureau went in maintaining secrecy
may be instructive. The Bureau sent a letter to Klan members purporting to be from
the "National Intelligence Committee" -- a super-secret Klan disciplinary body. The
letter fired the North Carolina Grand Dragon and suspended the Imperial Wizard,
Robert Shelton. Shelton complained to both the local postal inspector and the FBI
resident agency (which solemnly assured him that his complaint was not within the
Bureau's jurisdiction). The Bureau had intended to mail a second "NIC" letter, but the
plans were held in abeyance until it could be learned whether the postal inspector
intended to act on Shelton's complaint. The Bureau, therefore, contacted the local
postal inspector, using their investigation of Shelton's complaint as a pretext, to see
what the inspector intended to do. The field office reported that the local inspector had
forwarded the complaint to regional headquarters, which in turn referred it to a Chief
Postal Inspector in Washington, D.C. The Bureau's liaison agent was then sent to
that office to determine what action the postal authorities planned to take. He returned
with the information that the Post Office had referred the matter to the Fraud Section of
the Department of Justice's Criminal Division, under a cover letter stating that since
Shelton's allegations "appear to involve an internal struggle" for Klan control, and
"since the evidence of mail fraud was somewhat tenuous in nature," the Post Office did
not contemplate any investigation. Neither, apparently, did the Department. The
Bureau did not inform either the Postal Inspector or the Criminal Division that it had
authored the letter under review. Instead, when it appeared the FBI's role would not
be discovered, the Bureau prepared to send out the second letter -- a plan which was
discontinued when the Klan "notional" was proposed.
Memorandum from Charlotte Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 5/9/67;
memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Charlotte Field Office, 5/24/67;
memorandum. from Charlotte Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 5/31/67;
memorandum from Atlanta Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 6/7/67; memorandum
from Atlanta Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 6/13/67;
memorandum from Birmingham Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 6/14/67;
memorandum from Charlotte Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 6/28/67;
memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Atlanta and Charlotte Field Offices, 6/29/67;
memorandum from Atlanta Field Office to FBI Headquarters, 6/27/67;
memorandum from Bernard Rachner to Charles Brennan, 7/11/67;
memorandum from Charlotte Field Office to FBI Headquarters,
8/22/67; memorandum from FBI Headquarters to Charlotte Field Office, 8/21/67.
262 These documents were also made available to the Petersen Committee. The
Petersen Committee twice asked the Bureau for documents showing
outside knowledge, and twice was told there were none. Only as the Petersen report
was ready to go to press did the Bureau find the documents delivered.
(Staff interview with Henry Petersen.)
263 Memorandum from Director, FBI to the Attorney General, 5/8/58.
264 Memorandum from Director, FBI to the Attorney General, 5/8/58.
265 Memorandum from Director, FBI to the Attorney General, 5/8/58.
266 Memorandum from Director, FBI to the Attorney General, 1/10/61.
267 Memorandum from Director, FBI to the Attorney General, 1/10/61, p. 4.
268 Memorandum from Director, FBI to the Attorney General, 9/2/65, p. 2.
269 Memorandum from Nicholas deB. Katzenbach to J. Edgar Hoover, 9/3/65.
270 Nicholas deB. Katzenbach testimony, 12/3/75, Hearings, Vol. 6, pp. 206-207.
271 Katzenbach, 12/3/75, Hearings, Vol. 6, p. 217.
272 Memorandum from Director, FBI to the Attorney General, 12/19/67, p. 1.
273 Memorandum from Director, FBI to the Attorney General, 2/19/67, p. 4.
274 Memorandum from Director, FBI to the Attorney General, 12/19/67, p. 8.
275 The paragraph under the subheading "Tennessee" includes the statement that,
through a highly placed Bureau informant, "we were able to control the expansion
of the Klan." The paragraphs under the subheading "Virginia" states that, after the United
Klans of America began an intensive organizational effort in the state, "We immediately
began an all-out effort to penetrate the Virginia Klan, contain its growth, and deter
violence." The specific examples given, however, are not COINTELPRO actions, but liaison
with state and local authorities, prosecution, cooperation with the Governor, and
warning a civil rights worker of a plot against his life. The paragraph under the subheading
"Illinois" contains nothing relating to COINTELPRO activities, but refers to
cooperation with state authorities in the prosecution of a Klan official for a series of
bombings. (Memorandum from Director, FBI, to the Attorney General, 12/19/67, pp. 8 10.)
276 Clark, 12/3/75, Hearings, Vol. 6, p. 235.
277 Clark, 12/3/75, Hearings, p. 221.
278 The White Hate COINTELPRO had been going on for five years.
279 Memorandum from Director, FBI to the Attorney General, 9/17/69.
282 DeLoach, 12/3/75, Hearings, Vol. 6, p. 183.
283 Clark. 12/3/75, Hearings, Vol. 6, p. 232.
284 Unit Chief, 10/14/75, p. 136; and 10/21/75, p. 42.
285 Excerpt from FBI Director's briefing to the President and his cabinet, 11/6/58,
286 The actual dates of the hearings would be 1957, 1968, 1959, 1960, 1962,
1965, and 1966.
287 Excerpt from FBI Director's briefing of the House Appropriations
Subcommittee, FY 1959, p. 54.
288 Excerpt from FBI Director's briefing of the House Appropriations
Subcommittee, FY 1959, p. 58.
289 Excerpt from FBI Director's briefing of the House Appropriations
Subcommittee, FY 1960, p. 76.
290 Excerpt from FBI Director's briefing of the House Appropriations
Subcommittee, FY 1960, p. 76.
291 Excerpt from FBI Director's briefing of the House Appropriations
Subcommittee, FY 1960, p. 77.
292 Excerpt from FBI Director's briefing of the House Appropriations
Subcommittee, FY 1961, p. 80.
293 Excerpt from FBI Director's briefing of the House Appropriations
Subcommittee, FY 1961, p. 81.
294 Excerpt from FBI Director's briefing of the House Appropriations
Subcommittee, FY 1963.
295 Excerpt from FBI Director's briefing of the House Appropriations
Subcommittee, FY 1963.
296 Excerpt from FBI Director's briefing of the House Appropriations Subcommittee,
FY 1966, p. 62. This is the first time the targeting of non-Party members can be inferred.
297 Excerpt from FBI Director's briefing of the House Appropriations
Subcommittee, FY 1966, p. 63.
298 Unit chief, 10/16/75, p. 113.
299 Excerpt from FBI Director's briefing of the House Appropriations Subcommittee,
FY 1967, p. 71.
300 Excerpt from FBI Director's briefing of the House Appropriations Subcommittee,
FY 1967, pp. 72-73.
301 Although portions of the Committee's report were made public in April 1974,
Petersen has testified that the purpose of the report was simply to inform the Attorney
General. The inquiry was not intended to be conclusive and certainly was not an adversary
proceeding. "We were doing a survey rather than conducting an investigation."
(Henry Petersen testimony, 12/11/75, Hearing, Vol. 6, p. 271.)
301a William Saxbe statement, Civil Rights and Constitutional Rights SubCommittee
of the House Committee on the Judiciary, 11/20/74, p. 9.
302 Petersen committee report, CRCR Hearings, 11/20/74, p. 11.
303 Petersen committee report, CRCR, Hearings, 11/20/74, p. 26.
304 Petersen Committee Report, pp. 26-27.
305 Petersen Committee Report, p. 27.
306 Petersen Committee Report, p. 21.v
307 Peterson Committee Report, pp. 21-22.
308 Petersen Committee Report, p. 22.
309 For instance, the 20-years-past "Communist" activities of a target professor's
wife were found in "public source material," as were the arrest records of a prominent
civil rights leader. Both were leaked to "friendly" media on condition that the Bureau's
interest not be revealed.
310 See, e.g., the attempt to get an agent on the Alcohol Beverage Control Board
to raid a Democratic Party fundraiser.
311 The Civil Rights Division refused to endorse this conclusion, although it was
under heavy pressure from top Department executives to do so. Assistant Attorney
General J. Stanley Pottinger was first informed of the Petersen committee report a week
before its public release; and no official of the Civil Rights Division had previously
examined any of the COINTELPRO materials or summaries. After the report's release,
the Civil Rights Division was permitted a short time to review some of the materials.
(Staff summary of interview with Assistant Attorney General Pottinger, 4/21/76.)
Under these restrictions the Civil Rights Division was not able to review "everything
in the voluminous files," but rather conducted only a "general survey of the program
unrelated to specific allegations of criminal violations." Assistant Attorney General
Pottinger advised Attorney General Saxbe, upon the completion of this brief examination
of COINTELPRO, that the Division found "no basis for making criminal charges against
particular individuals or involving particular incidents." Although some of the acts
reviewed appeared "to amount to technical violations," the Division concluded that
"without more" information, prosecutive action would not be justified under its "normal
criteria." However, Pottinger stressed that a "different prosecution judgment would
be indicated if specific acts more fully known and developed, could be evaluated
in a complete factual context." (Memorandum from J. Stanley Pottinger, Assistant Attorney
General. to Attorney General Saxbe, 12/13/74.)
312 Petersen Committee Report, Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional
Rights, Hearings, 11/26/74, p. 25.
313 Petersen Committee Report, Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional
Rights hearings, 11/20/74, p. 28.
! enforcement measures such as increased guards around building or traffic control
during a demonstration while preventing COINTELPRO type activity.
315 Department of Justice release, 4/1/76.
316 The notification guidelines read as follows:
1. The review of the COINTELPRO files should be conducted by the existing
2. An individual should be notified in those instances where an action directed
against him was improper and, in addition, there is reason to believe
he may have been caused actual harm. In making this determination in
doubtful cases, the committee should resolve the question in favor of notification.
3. Excluded from notification should be those individuals who are known to be
aware that they were the subjects of COINTELPRO activities.
4. An advisory group will be created to pass upon those instances where the
committee is uncertain as to whether notification should be given, and
otherwise to advise the committee as requested.
5. The manner of notification should be determined in each case to protect
rights to privacy.
6. Notification should be given as the work of the committee proceeds, without
waiting for the entire review to be completed.
7. In the event that the committee determines in the process of review that
conduct suggests disciplinary action or referral of a matter to the Criminal or
civil nights Divisions, the appropriate referral should be made.
8. No departure from these instructions will be made without the express
approval of the Attorney General. The committee may request such departure
only through and with the recommendation of the advisory group.
(Letter from Department (if Justice to the Select Committee, 4/23/76.)
Transcription and html by Paul Wolf, 2002.